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Title: Health: Five Lay Sermons to Working-People

Author: John Brown

Release date: October 5, 2011 [eBook #37640]
Most recently updated: January 8, 2021

Language: English

Credits: Produced by Barbara Tozier, Bill Tozier, Matthew Wheaton
and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at



John Brown M.D.






He is not far from every one of us. For in Him we live and move not less than in Him we have our being.

"Out of darkness comes the hand
Reaching through nature,—moulding man."







Late Ticknor and Fields, and Fields, Osgood, & Co.



Affectionately inscribed to the memory of the Rev. James Trench, the heart and soul of the Canongate Mission, who, while he preached a pure and a fervent gospel to its heathens, taught them also and therefore to respect and save their health, and was the Originator and Keeper of their Library and Penny Bank, as well as their Minister.





THREE of these sermons were written for, and (shall I say?) preached some years ago, in one of the earliest missionary stations in Edinburgh, established by Broughton Place Congregation, and presided over at that time by the Reverend James Trench; one of the best human beings it was ever my privilege to know. He is dead; dying in and of his work,—from typhus fever caught at the bedside of one of his poor members—but he lives in the hearts of many a widow and fatherless child; and lives also, I doubt not, in the immediate vision of Him to do whose will was his meat and his drink. Given ten thousand such men, how would the crooked places be made straight, and the rough places plain, the wildernesses of city wickedness, the solitary places of sin and despair, of pain and shame, be made glad! This is what is to regenerate mankind; this is the leaven that some day is to leaven the lump.[8]

The other two sermons were never preached, except in print; but they were composed in the same key. I say this not in defence, but in explanation. I have tried to speak to working men and women from my lay pulpit, in the same words, with the same voice, with the same thoughts I was in the habit of using when doctoring them. This is the reason of their plain speaking. There is no other way of reaching these sturdy and weather and work-beaten understandings; there is nothing fine about them outside, though they are often as white in the skin under their clothes as a duchess, and their hearts as soft and tender as Jonathan's, or as Rachel's, or our own Grizel Baillie's; but you must speak out to them, and must not be mealy-mouthed if you wish to reach their minds and affections and wills. I wish the gentlefolks could hear and could use a little more of this outspokenness; and, as old Porson said, condescend to call a spade a spade, and not a horticultural implement; five letters instead of twenty-two, and more to the purpose.

You see, my dear working friends, I am great upon sparing your strength and taking things cannily. "All very well," say you; "it is easy speaking, and saying, Take it easy; but if the pat's on the fire it maun bile." It must, but you needn't[9] poke up the fire forever, and you may now and then set the kettle on the hob, and let it sing, instead of leaving it to burn its bottom out.

I had a friend who injured himself by overwork. One day I asked the servant if any person had called, and was told that some one had. "Who was it?" "O, it's the little gentleman that aye rins when he walks!" So I wish this age would walk more and "rin" less. A man can walk farther and longer than he can run, and it is poor saving to get out of breath. A man who lives to be seventy, and has ten children and (say) five-and-twenty grandchildren, is of more worth to the state than three men who die at thirty, it is to be hoped unmarried. However slow a coach seventy may have been, and however energetic and go-ahead the three thirties, I back the tortoise against the hares in the long run.

I am constantly seeing men who suffer, and indeed die, from living too fast; from true though not consciously immoral dissipation or scattering of their lives. Many a man is bankrupt in constitution at forty-five, and either takes out a cessio of himself to the grave, or goes on paying ten per cent for his stock-in-trade; he spends his capital instead of merely spending what he makes, or better still, laying up a purse for the days of darkness[10] and old age. A queer man, forty years ago,—Mr. Slate, or, as he was called, Sclate, who was too clever and not clever enough, and had not wisdom to use his wit, always scheming, full of "go," but never getting on,—was stopped by his friend, Sir Walter Scott,—that wonderful friend of us all, to whom we owe Jeanie Deans and Rob Roy, Meg Merrilies and Dandie Dinmont, Jinglin' Geordie, Cuddie Headrigg, and the immortal Baillie,—one day in Princess Street. "How are ye getting on, Sclate?" "Oo, just the auld thing, Sir Walter; ma pennies a' gang on tippenny eerands." And so it is with our nervous power, with our vital capital, with the pence of life; many of them go on "tippenny eerands." We are forever getting our bills renewed, till down comes the poor and damaged concern with dropsy or consumption, blazing fever, madness, or palsy. There is a Western Banking system in living, in using our bodily organs, as well as in paper-money. But I am running off into another sermon.

Health of mind and body, next to a good conscience, is the best blessing our Maker can give us, and to no one is it more immediately valuable than to the laboring man and his wife and children; and indeed a good conscience is just moral health, the wholeness of the sense and the organ of duty; for[11] let us never forget that there is a religion of the body, as well as, and greatly helpful of, the religion of the soul. We are to glorify God in our souls and in our bodies, for the best of all reasons, because they are his, and to remember that at last we must give account, not only of our thoughts and spiritual desires and acts, but all the deeds done in our body. A husband who, in the morning before going to his work, would cut his right hand off sooner than injure the wife of his bosom, strangles her that same night when mad with drink; that is a deed done in his body, and truly by his body, for his judgment is gone; and for that he must give an account when his name is called; his judgment was gone; but then, as the child of a drunken murderer said to me, "A' but, sir, wha goned it?" I am not a teetotaler. I am against teetotalism as a doctrine of universal application; I think we are meant to use these things as not abusing them,—this is one of the disciplines of life; but I not the less am sure that drunkenness ruins men's bodies,—it is not for me to speak of souls,—is a greater cause of disease and misery, poverty, crime, and death among the laboring men and women of our towns, than consumption, fever, cholera, and all their tribe, with thieving and profligacy and improvidence thrown into the bargain: these slay[12] their thousands; this its tens of thousands. Do you ever think of the full meaning of "he's the waur o' drink?" How much the waur?—and then "dead drunk,"—"mortal." Can there be anything more awfully significant than these expressions you hear from children in the streets?

You will see in the woodcut a good illustration of the circulation of the blood: both that through our lungs, by which we breathe and burn, and that through the whole body, by which we live and build. That hand grasps the heart, the central depot, with its valves opening out and in, and, by its contraction and relaxation, makes the living fluid circulate everywhere, carrying in strength, life, and supply to all, and carrying off waste and harm. None of you will be the worse of thinking of that hand as His who makes, supports, moves, and governs all things,—that hand which, while it wheels the rolling worlds, gathers the lambs with his arm, carries them in his bosom, and gently leads those that are with young, and which was once nailed for "our advantage on the bitter cross."

J. B.

23 Rutland Street,
December 16, 1861.



Preface     7
SERMON I. The Doctor: our Duties to him 15
  II. The Doctor: his Duties to you 29
  III. Children, and how to guide them 41
  IV. Health 56
  V. Medical Odds and Ends 71







EVERYBODY knows the Doctor; a very important person he is to us all. What could we do without him? He brings us into this world, and tries to keep us as long in it as he can, and as long as our bodies can hold together; and he is with us at that strange and last hour which will come to us all, when we must leave this world and go into the next.

When we are well, we perhaps think little about the Doctor, or we have our small joke at him and his drugs; but let anything go wrong with our body, that wonderful tabernacle in which our soul dwells, let any of its wheels go wrong, then off we fly to him. If the mother thinks her husband or her child dying, how she runs to him, and urges him with her tears! how she watches his face, and follows his searching eye, as he examines the dear sufferer; how[16] she wonders what he thinks,—what would she give to know what he knows! how she wearies for his visit! how a cheerful word from him makes her heart leap with joy, and gives her spirit and strength to watch over the bed of distress! Her whole soul goes out to him in unspeakable gratitude when he brings back to her from the power of the grave her husband or darling child. The Doctor knows many of our secrets, of our sorrows, which no one else knows,—some of our sins, perhaps, which the great God alone else knows; how many cares and secrets, how many lives, he carries in his heart and in his hands! So you see he is a very important person the Doctor, and we should do our best to make the most of him, and to do our duty to him and to ourselves.

A thinking man feels often painfully what a serious thing it is to be a doctor, to have the charge of the lives of his fellow-mortals, to stand, as it were, between them and death and eternity and the judgment-seat, and to fight hand to hand with Death. One of the best men and greatest physicians that ever lived, Dr. Sydenham, says, in reference to this, and it would be well if all doctors, young and old, would consider his words:—

"It becomes every man who purposes to give himself to the care of others, seriously to consider the four following things: First, That he must one day give an account to the Supreme Judge of all the lives intrusted to his care. Secondly, That all his[17] skill and knowledge and energy, as they have been given him by God, so they should be exercised for his glory and the good of mankind, and not for mere gain or ambition. Thirdly, and not more beautifully than truly, Let him reflect that he has undertaken the care of no mean creature, for, in order that we may estimate the value, the greatness of the human race, the only begotten Son of God became himself a man, and thus ennobled it with his divine dignity, and, far more than this, died to redeem it; and Fourthly, That the Doctor, being himself a mortal man, should be diligent and tender in relieving his suffering patients, inasmuch as he himself must one day be a like sufferer."

I shall never forget a proof I myself got twenty years ago, how serious a thing it is to be a doctor, and how terribly in earnest people are when they want him. It was when cholera first came here in 1832. I was in England at Chatham, which you all know is a great place for ships and sailors. This fell disease comes on generally in the night; as the Bible says, "it walks in darkness," and many a morning was I roused at two o'clock to go and see its sudden victims, for then is its hour and power. One morning a sailor came to say I must go three miles down the river to a village where it had broken out with great fury. Off I set. We rowed in silence down the dark river, passing the huge hulks, and hearing the restless convicts turning in their[18] beds in their chains. The men rowed with all their might: they had too many dying or dead at home to have the heart to speak to me. We got near the place; it was very dark, but I saw a crowd of men and women on the shore, at the landing-place. They were all shouting for the Doctor; the shrill cries of the women, and the deep voices of the men coming across the water to me. We were near the shore, when I saw a big old man, his hat off, his hair gray, his head bald; he said nothing, but turning them all off with his arm, he plunged into the sea, and before I knew where I was, he had me in his arms. I was helpless as an infant. He waded out with me, carrying me high up in his left arm, and with his right levelling every man or woman who stood in his way.

It was Big Joe carrying me to see his grandson, little Joe; and he bore me off to the poor convulsed boy, and dared me to leave him till he was better. He did get better, but Big Joe was dead that night. He had the disease on him when he carried me away from the boat, but his heart was set upon his boy. I never can forget that night, and how important a thing it was to be able to relieve suffering, and how much Old Joe was in earnest about having the Doctor.

Now, I want you to consider how important the Doctor is to you. Nobody needs him so much as the poor and laboring man. He is often ill. He[19] is exposed to hunger and wet and cold, and to fever, and to all the diseases of hard labor and poverty. His work is heavy, and his heart is often heavy, too, with misery of all kinds,—his heart weary with its burden,—his hands and limbs often meeting with accidents,—and you know if the poor man, if one of you falls ill and takes fever, or breaks his leg, it is a far more serious thing than with a richer man. Your health and strength are all you have to depend on; they are your stock-in-trade, your capital. Therefore I shall ask you to remember four things about your duty to the Doctor, so as to get the most good out of him, and do the most good to him too.

1st, It is your duty to trust the Doctor;

2dly, It is your duty to obey the Doctor;

3dly, It is your duty to speak the truth to the Doctor, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth; and,

4thly, It is your duty to reward the Doctor.

And so now for the first. It is your duty to trust the Doctor, that is, to believe in him. If you were in a ship, in a wild storm, and among dangerous rocks, and if you took a pilot on board, who knew all the coast and all the breakers, and had a clear eye, and a firm heart, and a practised hand, would you not let him have his own way? would you think of giving him your poor advice, or keep his hand from its work at the helm? You would not be such[20] a fool, or so uncivil, or so mad. And yet many people do this very same sort of thing, just because they don't really trust their Doctor; and a doctor is a pilot for your bodies when they are in a storm and in distress. He takes the helm, and does his best to guide you through a fever; but he must have fair play; he must be trusted even in the dark. It is wonderful what cures the very sight of a doctor will work, if the patient believes in him; it is half the battle. His very face is as good as a medicine, and sometimes better,—and much pleasanter too.

One day a laboring man came to me with indigestion. He had a sour and sore stomach, and heartburn, and the water-brash, and wind, and colic, and wonderful misery of body and mind. I found he was eating bad food, and too much of it; and then, when its digestion gave him pain, he took a glass of raw whiskey. I made him promise to give up his bad food and his worse whiskey, and live on pease-brose and sweet milk, and I wrote him a prescription, as we call it, for some medicine, and said, "Take that, and come back in a fortnight and you will be well." He did come back, hearty and hale;—no colic, no sinking at the heart, a clean tongue, and a cool hand, and a firm step, and a clear eye, and a happy face. I was very proud of the wonders my prescription had done; and having forgotten what it was, I said, "Let me see what I[21] gave you." "O," says he, "I took it." "Yes," said I, "but the prescription." "I took it, as you bade me. I swallowed it." He had actually eaten the bit of paper, and been all that the better of it; but it would have done him little, at least less good had he not trusted me when I said he would be better, and attended to my rules.

So, take my word for it, and trust your Doctor; it is his due, and it is for your own advantage. Now, our next duty is to obey the Doctor. This you will think is simple enough. What use is there in calling him in, if we don't do what he bids us? and yet nothing is more common—partly from laziness and sheer stupidity, partly from conceit and suspiciousness, and partly, in the case of children, from false kindness and indulgence—than to disobey the Doctor's orders. Many a child have I seen die from nothing but the mother's not liking to make her swallow a powder, or put on a blister; and let me say, by the by, teach your children at once to obey you, and take the medicine. Many a life is lost from this, and remember you may make even Willie Winkie take his castor-oil in spite of his cries and teeth, by holding his nose, so that he must swallow.

Thirdly, You should tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, to your Doctor. He may be never so clever, and never so anxious, but he can no more know how to treat a case of illness[22] without knowing all about it, than a miller can make meal without corn; and many a life have I seen lost from the patient or his friends concealing something that was true, or telling something that was false. The silliness of this is only equal to its sinfulness and its peril.

I remember, in connection with that place where Big Joe lived and died, a singular proof of the perversity of people in not telling the Doctor the truth,—as you know people are apt to send for him in cholera when it is too late, when it is a death rather than a disease. But there is an early stage, called premonitory,—or warning,—when medicines can avail. I summoned all the people of that fishing-village who were well, and told them this, and asked them if they had any of the symptoms. They all denied having any (this is a peculiar feature in that terrible disease, they are afraid to let on to themselves, or even the Doctor, that they are "in for it"), though from their looks and from their going away while I was speaking, I knew they were not telling the truth. Well, I said, "You must, at any rate, every one of you take some of this," producing a bottle of medicine. I will not tell you what it was, as you should never take drugs at your own hands, but it is simple and cheap. I made every one take it; only one woman going away without taking any; she was the only one of all those who died.[23]

Lastly, It is your duty to reward your Doctor. There are four ways of rewarding your Doctor. The first is by giving him your money; the second is by giving him your gratitude; the third is by your doing his bidding; and the fourth is by speaking well of him, giving him a good name, recommending him to others. Now, I know few if any of you can pay your Doctor, and it is a great public blessing that in this country you will always get a good Doctor willing to attend you for nothing, and this is a great blessing; but let me tell you,—I don't think I need tell you,—try and pay him, be it ever so little. It does you good as well as him; it keeps up your self-respect; it raises you in your own eye, in your neighbor's, and, what is best, in your God's eye, because it is doing what is right. The "man of independent mind," be he never so poor, is "king of men for a' that"; ay, and "for twice and mair than a' that"; and to pay his way is one of the proudest things a poor man can say, and he may say it oftener than he thinks he can. And then let me tell you, as a bit of cool, worldly wisdom, that your Doctor will do you all the more good, and make a better job of your cure, if he gets something, some money for his pains; it is human nature and common sense, this. It is wonderful how much real kindness and watching and attendance and cleanliness you may get for so many shillings a week. Nursing is a much better[24] article at that,—much,—than at nothing a week. But I pass on to the other ways of paying or rewarding your Doctor, and, above all, to gratitude.

Honey is not sweeter in your mouths, and light is not more pleasant to your eyes, and music to your ears, and a warm, cosey bed is not more welcome to your wearied legs and head, than is the honest, deep gratitude of the poor to the young Doctor. It is his glory, his reward; he fills himself with it, and wraps himself all round with it as with a cloak, and goes on in his work, happy and hearty; and the gratitude of the poor is worth the having, and worth the keeping, and worth the remembering. Twenty years ago I attended old Sandie Campbell's wife in a fever, in Big Hamilton's Close in the Grassmarket,—two worthy, kindly souls they were and are. (Sandie is dead now.) By God's blessing, the means I used saved "oor Kirsty's" life, and I made friends of these two forever; Sandie would have fought for me if need be, and Kirsty would do as good. I can count on them as my friends, and when I pass the close-mouth in the West Port, where they now live, and are thriving, keeping their pigs, and their hoary old cuddie and cart, I get a courtesy from Kirsty, and see her look after me, and turn to the women beside her, and I know exactly what she is saying to them about "Dr. Broon." And when I meet old Sandie, with[25] his ancient and long-lugged friend, driving the draff from the distillery for his swine, I see his gray eye brighten and glisten, and he looks up and gives his manly and cordial nod, and goes on his way, and I know that he is saying to himself, "God bless him! he saved my Kirsty's life," and he runs back in his mind all those twenty past years, and lays out his heart on all he remembers, and that does him good and me too, and nobody any ill. Therefore, give your gratitude to your Doctor, and remember him, like honest Sandie; it will not lose its reward and it costs you nothing; it is one of those things you can give and never be a bit the poorer, but all the richer.

One person I would earnestly warn you against, and that is the Quack Doctor. If the real Doctor is a sort of God of healing, or rather our God's cobbler for the body, the Quack is the Devil for the body, or rather the Devil's servant against the body. And like his father, he is a great liar and cheat. He offers you what he cannot give. Whenever you see a medicine that cures everything, be sure it cures nothing; and remember, it may kill. The Devil promised our Saviour all the kingdoms of the world if he would fall down and worship him; now this was a lie, he could not give him any such thing. Neither can the Quack give you his kingdoms of health, even though you worship him as he best likes, by paying him for his trash;[26] he is dangerous and dear, and often deadly,—have nothing to do with him.

We have our duties to one another, yours to me, and mine to you: but we have all our duty to one else,—to Almighty God, who is beside us at this very moment—who followed us all this day, and knew all we did and didn't do, what we thought and didn't think,—who will watch over us all this night,—who is continually doing us good,—who is waiting to be gracious to us,—who is the great Physician, whose saving health will heal all our diseases, and redeem our life from destruction, and crown us with loving-kindness and tender mercies,—who can make death the opening into a better life, the very gate of heaven; that same death which is to all of us the most awful and most certain of all things, and at whose door sits its dreadful king, with that javelin, that sting of his, which is sin, our own sin. Death would be nothing without sin, no more than falling asleep in the dark to awake to the happy light of the morning. Now, I would have you think of your duty to this great God, our Father in heaven; and I would have you to remember that it is your duty to trust him, to believe in him. If you do not, your soul will be shipwrecked, you will go down in terror and in darkness.

It is your duty to obey him. Whom else in all this world should you obey, if not him? and who[27] else so easily pleased, if we only do obey? It is your duty to speak the truth to him, not that he needs any man to tell him anything. He knows everything about everybody; nobody can keep a secret from him. But he hates lies; he abhors a falsehood. He is the God of truth, and must be dealt honestly with, in sincerity and godly fear; and, lastly, you must in a certain sense reward him. You cannot give him money, for the silver and gold, the cattle upon a thousand hills, are all his already, but you can give him your grateful lives; you can give him your hearts; and as old Mr. Henry says, "Thanksgiving is good, but thanks-living is better."

One word more; you should call your Doctor early. It saves time; it saves suffering; it saves trouble; it saves life. If you saw a fire beginning in your house, you would put it out as fast as you could. You might perhaps be able to blow out with your breath what in an hour the fire-engine could make nothing of. So it is with disease and the Doctor. A disease in the morning when beginning is like the fire beginning; a dose of medicine, some simple thing, may put it out, when if left alone, before night it may be raging hopelessly, like the fire if left alone, and leaving your body dead and in the ruins in a few hours. So, call in the Doctor soon; it saves him much trouble, and may save you your life.[28]

And let me end by asking you to call in the Great Physician; to call him instantly, to call him in time; there is not a moment to lose. He is waiting to be called; he is standing at the door. But he must be called,—he may be called too late.




YOU remember our last sermon was mostly about your duties to the Doctor. I am now going to speak about his duties to you; for you know it is a law of our life, that there are no one-sided duties,—they are all double. It is like shaking hands, there must be two at it; and both of you ought to give a hearty grip and a hearty shake. You owe much to many, and many owe much to you. The Apostle says, "Owe no man anything but to love one another"; but if you owe that, you must be forever paying it; it is always due, always running on; and the meanest and most helpless, the most forlorn, can always pay and be paid in that coin, and in paying can buy more than he thought of. Just as a farthing candle, twinkling out of a cotter's window, and, it may be, guiding the gudeman home to his wife and children, sends its rays out into the infinite expanse[30] of heaven, and thus returns, as it were, the light of the stars, which are many of them suns. You cannot pass any one on the street to whom you are not bound by this law. If he falls down, you help to raise him. You do your best to relieve him, and get him home; and let me tell you, to your great gain and honor, the poor are far more ready and better at this sort of work than the gentlemen and ladies. You do far more for each other than they do. You will share your last loaf; you will sit up night after night with a neighbor you know nothing about, just because he is your neighbor, and you know what it is to be neighbor-like. You are more natural and less selfish than the fine folks. I don't say you are better, neither do I say you are worse; that would be a foolish and often mischievous way of speaking. We have all virtues and vices and advantages peculiar to our condition. You know the queer old couplet,—

"Them what is rich, them rides in chaises;
Them what is poor, them walks like blazes."

If you were well, and not in a hurry, and it were cold, would you not much rather "walk like blazes" than ride listless in your chaise? But this I know, for I have seen it, that according to their means, the poor bear one another's burdens far more than the rich.

There are many reasons for this, outside of yourselves,[31] and there is no need of your being proud of it or indeed of anything else; but it is something to be thankful for, in the midst of all your hardships, that you in this have more of the power and of the luxury of doing immediate, visible good. You pay this debt in ready-money, as you do your meal and your milk; at least you have very short credit, and the shorter the better. Now, the Doctor has his duties to you, and it is well that he should know them, and that you should know them too; for it will be long before you and he can do without each other. You keep each other alive. Disease, accidents, pain, and death reign everywhere, and we call one another mortals, as if our chief peculiarity was that we must die, and you all know how death came into this world. "By one man sin entered the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned"; and disease, disorder, and distress are the fruits of sin, as truly as that apple grew on that forbidden tree. You have nowadays all sorts of schemes for making bad men good, and good men better. The world is full of such schemes, some of them wise and some foolish; but to be wise they must all go on the principle of lessening misery by lessening sin; so that the old weaver at Kilmarnock, who at a meeting for abolishing slavery, the corn laws, and a few more things, said, "Mr. Preses, I move that we abolish Original Sin," was at least[32] beginning at the right end. Only fancy what a world it would be, what a family any of ours would be, when everybody did everything that was right, and nothing that was wrong, say for a week! The world would not know itself. It would be inclined to say with the "wee bit wifiekie," though reversing the cause, "This is no me." I am not going to say more on this point. It is not my parish. But you need none of you be long ignorant of who it is who has abolished death, and therefore vanquished sin.

Well, then, it is the duty of the Doctor in the first place, to cure us; in the second, to be kind to us; in the third, to be true to us; in the fourth, to keep our secrets; in the fifth, to warn us, and, best of all, to forewarn us; in the sixth, to be grateful to us; and, in the last, to keep his time and his temper.

And, first, it is the duty of the Doctor to cure you,—if he can. That is what we call him in for; and a doctor, be he never so clever and delightful, who doesn't cure, is like a mole-catcher who can't catch moles, or a watchmaker who can do everything but make your watch go. Old Dr. Pringle of Perth, when preaching in the country, found his shoes needed mending, and he asked the brother whom he was assisting to tell him of good cobbler, or as he called him, a snab. His friend mentioned a "Tammas Rattray, a godly man, and an elder." "But,"[33] said Dr. Pringle, in his snell way, "can he mend my shoon? that's what I want; I want a shoemaker; I'm not wanting an elder." It turned out that Tammas was a better elder than a shoemaker. A doctor was once attending a poor woman in labor; it was a desperate case, requiring a cool head and a firm will; the good man—for he was good—had neither of these, and, losing his presence of mind, gave up the poor woman as lost, and retired into the next room to pray for her. Another doctor, who, perhaps, wanted what the first one had, and certainly had what he wanted, brains and courage, meanwhile arrived, and called out, "Where is Doctor ——?" "O, he has gone into the next room to pray!" "Pray! tell him to come here this moment, and help me; he can work and pray too"; and with his assistance the snell doctor saved that woman's life. This, then, is the Doctor's first duty to you,—to cure you,—and for this he must, in the first place, be up to his business; he must know what to do, and, secondly, he must be able to do it; he must not merely do as a pointer dog does, stand and say, "There it is," and no more, he must point and shoot too. And let me tell you, moreover, that unless a man likes what he is at, and is in earnest, and sticks to it, he will no more make a good doctor than a good anything else. Doctoring is not only a way for a man to do good by curing disease, and to get money to himself for doing this, but it is[34] also a study which interests for itself alone, like geology, or any other science; and moreover it is a way to fame and the glory of the world; all these four things act upon the mind of the Doctor, but unless the first one is uppermost, his patient will come off second-best with him; he is not the man for your lives or for your money.

They tell a story, which may not be word for word true, but it has truth and a great principle in it, as all good stories have. It is told of one of our clever friends, the French, who are so knowing in everything. A great French doctor was taking an English one round the wards of his hospital; all sort of miseries going on before them, some dying, others longing for death, all ill; the Frenchman was wonderfully eloquent about all their diseases, you would have thought he saw through them, and knew all their secret wheels like looking into a watch or into a glass beehive. He told his English friend what would be seen in such a case, when the body was opened! He spent some time in this sort of work, and was coming out, full of glee, when the other doctor said: "But, Doctor ——, you haven't prescribed for these cases." "O, neither I have!" said he, with a grumph and a shrug; "I quite forgot that"; that being the one thing why these poor people were there, and why he was there too. Another story of a Frenchman, though I dare say we could tell it of ourselves. He was a great professor,[35] and gave a powerful poison as a medicine for an ugly disease of the skin. He carried it very far, so as to weaken the poor fellow, who died, just as the last vestige of the skin disease died too. On looking at the dead body, quite smooth and white, and also quite dead, he said, "Ah, never mind; he was dead cured."

So let me advise you, as, indeed, your good sense will advise yourselves, to test a Doctor by this: Is he in earnest? Does he speak little and do much? Does he make your case his first care? He may, after that, speak of the weather, or the money-market; he may gossip, and even haver; or he may drop, quietly and shortly, some "good words,"—the fewer the better; something that causes you to think and feel; and may teach you to be more of the Publican than of the Pharisee, in that story you know of, when they two went up to the temple to pray; but, generally speaking, the Doctor should, like the rest of us, stick to his trade and mind his business.

Secondly, It is the Doctor's duty to be kind to you. I mean by this, not only to speak kindly, but to be kind, which includes this and a great deal more, though a kind word, as well as a merry heart, does good like a medicine. Cheerfulness, or rather cheeriness, is a great thing in a Doctor; his very foot should have "music in't, when he comes up the stair." The Doctor should never lose his power of[36] pitying pain, and letting his patient see this and feel it. Some men, and they are often the best at their proper work, can let their hearts come out only through their eyes; but it is not the less sincere, and to the point; you can make your mouth say what is not true; you can't do quite so much with your eyes. A Doctor's eye should command, as well as comfort and cheer his patient; he should never let him think disobedience or despair possible. Perhaps you think Doctors get hardened by seeing so much suffering; this is not true. Pity as a motive, as well as a feeling ending in itself, is stronger in an old Doctor than in a young, so he be made of the right stuff. He comes to know himself what pain and sorrow mean, what their weight is, and how grateful he was or is for relief and sympathy.

Thirdly, It is his duty to be true to you. True in word and in deed. He ought to speak nothing but the truth, as to the nature, and extent, and issues of the disease he is treating; but he is not bound, as I said you were, to tell the whole truth,—that is for his own wisdom and discretion to judge of; only, never let him tell an untruth, and let him be honest enough, when he can't say anything definite, to say nothing. It requires some courage to confess our ignorance, but it is worth it. As to the question, often spoken of,—telling a man he is dying,—the Doctor must, in the first[37] place, be sure the patient is dying; and, secondly, that it is for his good, bodily and mental, to tell him so: he should almost always warn the friends, but, even here, cautiously.

Fourthly, It is his duty to keep your secrets. There are things a Doctor comes to know and is told which no one but he and the Judge of all should know; and he is a base man, and unworthy to be in such a noble profession as that of healing, who can betray what he knows must injure, and in some cases may ruin.

Fifthly, It is his duty to warn you against what is injuring your health. If he finds his patient has brought disease upon himself by sin, by drink, by overwork, by over-eating, by over-anything, it is his duty to say so plainly and firmly, and the same with regard to the treatment of children by their parents; the family doctor should forewarn them; he should explain, as far as he is able and they can comprehend them, the Laws of Health, and so tell them how to prevent disease, as well as do his best to cure it. What a great and rich field there is here for our profession, if they and the public could only work well together! In this, those queer, half-daft, half-wise beings, the Chinese, take a wiser way; they pay their Doctor for keeping them well, and they stop his pay as long as they are ill!

Sixthly, It is his duty to be grateful to you; 1st, for employing him, whether you pay him in[38] money or not, for a Doctor, worth being one, makes capital, makes knowledge, and therefore power, out of every case he has; 2dly, for obeying him and getting better. I am always very much obliged to my patients for being so kind as to be better, and for saying so; for many are ready enough to say they are worse, not so many to say they are better, even when they are; and you know our Scotch way of saying, "I'm no that ill," when "I" is in high health, or, "I'm no ony waur," when "I" is much better. Don't be niggards in this; it cheers the Doctor's heart, and it will lighten yours.

Seventhly, and lastly, It is the Doctor's duty to keep his time and his temper with you. Any man or woman who knows how longed for a doctor's visit is, and counts on it to a minute, knows how wrong, how painful, how angering it is for the Doctor not to keep his time. Many things may occur, for his urgent cases are often sudden, to put him out of his reckoning; but it is wonderful what method, and real consideration, and a strong will can do in this way. I never found Dr. Abercrombie a minute after or before his time (both are bad, though one is the worser), and yet if I wanted him in a hurry, and stopped his carriage in the street, he could always go with me at once; he had the knack and the principle of being true in his times, for it is often a matter of truth. And the Doctor[39] must keep his temper: this is often worse to manage than even his time, there is so much unreason, and ingratitude, and peevishness, and impertinence, and impatience, that it is very hard to keep one's tongue and eye from being angry: and sometimes the Doctor does not only well, but the best, when he is downrightly angry, and astonishes some fool, or some insolent, or some untruth doing or saying patient; but the Doctor should be patient with his patients, he should bear with them, knowing how much they are at the moment suffering. Let us remember Him who is full of compassion, whose compassion never fails; whose tender mercies are new to us every morning, as his faithfulness is every night; who healed all manner of diseases, and was kind to the unthankful and the evil; what would become of us, if he were as impatient with us as we often are with each other? If you want to be impressed with the Almighty's infinite loving-kindness and tender mercy, his forbearance, his long-suffering patience, his slowness to anger, his Divine ingeniousness in trying to find it possible to spare and save, think of the Israelites in the desert, and read the chapter where Abraham intercedes with God for Sodom, and these wonderful "peradventures."

But I am getting tedious, and keeping you and myself too long, so good night. Let the Doctor and you be honest and grateful, and kind and cordial,[40] in one word, dutiful to each other, and you will each be the better of the other.

I may by and by say a word or two to you on your Health, which is your wealth, that by which you are and do well, and on your Children, and how to guide it and them.




OUR text at this time is Children and their treatment, or as it sounds better to our ears, Bairns, and how to guide them. You all know the wonder and astonishment there is in a house among its small people when a baby is born; how they stare at the new arrival with its red face. Where does it come from? Some tell them it comes from the garden, from a certain kind of cabbage; some from "Rob Rorison's bonnet," of which wha hasna heard? some from that famous wig of Charlie's, in which the cat kittled, when there was three o' them leevin', and three o' them dead; and you know the Doctor is often said to bring the new baby in his pocket; and many a time have my pockets been slyly examined by the curious youngsters,—especially the girls!—in hopes of finding another baby. But I'll tell you where all the babies come from; they all come from[42] God; his hand made and fashioned them; he breathed into their nostrils the breath of life,—of his life. He said, "Let this little child be," and it was. A child is a true creation; its soul, certainly, and in a true sense, its body too. And as our children came from him, so they are going back to him, and he lends them to us as keepsakes; we are to keep and care for them for his sake. What a strange and sacred thought this is! Children are God's gifts to us, and it depends on our guiding of them, not only whether they are happy here, but whether they are happy hereafter in that great unchangeable eternity, into which you and I and all of us are fast going. I once asked a little girl, "Who made you?" and she said, holding up her apron as a measure, "God make me that length, and I growed the rest myself." Now this, as you know, was not quite true, for she could not grow one half-inch by herself. God makes us grow as well as makes us at first. But what I want you to fix in your minds is, that children come from God, and are returning to him, and that you and I, who are parents, have to answer to him for the way we behave to our dear children,—the kind of care we take of them.

Now, a child consists, like ourselves, of a body and a soul. I am not going to say much about the guiding of the souls of children,—that is a little out of my line,—but I may tell you that the soul,[43] especially in children, depends much, for its good and for its evil, for its happiness or its misery, upon the kind of body it lives in: for the body is just the house that the soul dwells in; and you know that, if a house be uncomfortable, the tenant of it will be uncomfortable and out of sorts; if its windows let the rain and wind in, if the chimney smoke, if the house be damp, and if there be a want of good air, then the people who live in it will be miserable enough; and if they have no coals, and no water, and no meat, and no beds, then you may be sure it will soon be left by its inhabitants. And so, if you don't do all you can to make your children's bodies healthy and happy, their souls will get miserable and cankered and useless, their tempers peevish; and if you don't feed and clothe them right, then their poor little souls will leave their ill-used bodies,—will be starved out of them; and many a man and woman have had their tempers, and their minds and hearts, made miseries to themselves, and all about them, just from a want of care of their bodies when children.

There is something very sad, and, in a true sense, very unnatural, in an unhappy child. You and I, grown-up people, who have cares, and have had sorrows and difficulties and sins, may well be dull and sad sometimes; it would be still sadder, if we were not often so; but children should be always either laughing and playing, or eating and sleeping. Play is[44] their business. You cannot think how much useful knowledge, and how much valuable bodily exercise, a child teaches itself in its play; and look how merry the young of other animals are: the kitten making fun of everything, even of its sedate mother's tail and whiskers; the lambs, running races in their mirth; even the young asses,—the baby-cuddie,—how pawky and droll and happy he looks with his fuzzy head, and his laughing eyes, and his long legs, stot, stotting after that venerable and sair nauden-doun lady, with the long ears, his mother. One thing I like to see, is a child clean in the morning. I like to see its plump little body well washed, and sweet and caller from top to bottom. But there is another thing I like to see, and that is a child dirty at night. I like a steerin' bairn,—goo-gooin', crowing and kicking, keeping everybody alive. Do you remember William Miller's song of "Wee Willie Winkie?" Here it is. I think you will allow, especially you who are mothers, that it is capital.

"Wee Willie Winkie
Rins through the toun,
Up stairs an' doon stairs
In his nicht-goun,
Tirlin' at the window,
Crying at the lock,
'Are the weans in their bed,
For it's noo ten o'clock?'
"'Hey Willie Winkie,
Are ye comin' ben![45]
The cat's singin' gray thrums
To the sleepin' hen,
The dog's speldert on the floor,
And disna gi'e a cheep,
But here's a waakrife laddie!
That winna fa' asleep.'
"'Onything but sleep, you rogue!
Glow'rin' like the moon!
Rattlin' in an airn jug
Wi' an airn spoon,
Rumblin', tumblin' roun' about,
Crawin' like a cock,
Skirlin' like a kenna-what,
Wauk'nin' sleepin' folk.
"'Hey, Willie Winkie,
The wean's in a creel!
Wamblin' aff a bodie's knee
Like a verra eel,
Ruggin' at the cat's lug,
And ravelin' a' her thrums,—
Hey, Willie Winkie,—
See, there he comes!'
"Wearied is the mither
That has a stoorie wean,
A wee stumpie stousie,
Wha canna rin his lane,
That has a battle aye wi' sleep
Afore he'll close an e'e,—
But ae kiss frae aff his rosy lips
Gi'es strength anew to me."

Is not this good? first-rate! The cat singin' gray thrums, and the wee stumpie stousie, ruggin' at her lug, and ravlin' a' her thrums; and then[46] what a din he is making!—rattlit' in an airn jug wi' an airn spoon, skirlin' like a kenna-what, and ha'in' a battle aye wi' sleep. What a picture of a healthy and happy child!

Now, I know how hard it is for many of you to get meat for your children, and clothes for them, and bed and bedding for them at night, and I know how you have to struggle for yourselves and them, and how difficult it often is for you to take all the care you would like to do of them, and you will believe me when I say, that it is a far greater thing, because a far harder thing, for a poor, struggling, and it may be weakly woman in your station, to bring up her children comfortably, than for those who are richer; but still you may do a great deal of good at little cost either of money or time or trouble. And it is well-wared pains; it will bring you in two hundred percent in real comfort, and profit, and credit; and so you will, I am sure, listen good-naturedly to me, when I go over some plain and simple things about the health of your children.

To begin with their heads. You know the head contains the brain, which is the king of the body, and commands all under him; and it depends on his being good or bad whether his subjects,—the legs, and arms, and body, and stomach, and our old friends the bowels, are in good order and happy, or not. Now, first of all, keep the head cool. Nature has given it a nightcap of her own in the hair, and it[47] is the best. And keep the head clean. Give it a good scouring every Saturday night at the least; and if it get sore and scabbit, the best thing I know for it is to wash it with soft soap (black soap), and put a big cabbage-blade on it every night. Then for the lungs, or lichts,—the bellows that keep the fire of life burning,—they are very busy in children, because a child is not like grown-up folk, merely keeping itself up. It is doing this, and growing too; and so it eats more, and sleeps more, and breathes more in proportion than big folk. And to carry on all this business it must have fresh air, and lots of it. So, whenever it can be managed, a child should have a good while every day in the open air, and should have well-aired places to sleep in. Then for their nicht-gowns, the best are long flannel gowns; and children should be always more warmly clad than grown-up people,—cold kills them more easily. Then there is the stomach, and as this is the kitchen and great manufactory, it is almost always the first thing that goes wrong in children, and generally as much from too much being put in, as from its food being of an injurious kind. A baby, for nine months after it is born, should have almost nothing but its mother's milk. This is God's food, and it is the best and the cheapest, too. If the baby be healthy it should be weaned or spained at nine or ten months; and this should be done gradually, giving the baby a little gruel, or[48] new milk, and water and sugar, or thin bread-berry once a day for some time, so as gradually to wean it. This makes it easier for mother as well as baby. No child should get meat or hard things till it gets teeth to chew them, and no baby should ever get a drop of whiskey, or any strong drink, unless by the Doctor's orders. Whiskey, to the soft, tender stomach of an infant, is like vitriol to ours; it is a burning poison to its dear little body, as it may be a burning poison and a curse to its never-dying soul. As you value your children's health of body, and the salvation of their souls, never give them a drop of whiskey; and let mothers, above all others, beware of drinking when nursing. The whiskey passes from their stomachs into their milk, and poisons their own child. This is a positive fact. And think of a drunk woman carrying and managing a child! I was once, many years ago, walking in Lothian Street, when I saw a woman staggering along very drunk. She was carrying a child; it was lying over her shoulder. I saw it slip, slippin' farther and farther back. I ran, and cried out; but before I could get up, the poor little thing, smiling over its miserable mother's shoulder, fell down, like a stone, on its head on the pavement; it gave a gasp, and turned up its blue eyes, and had a convulsion, and its soul was away to God, and its little soft, waefu' body lying dead, and its idiotic mother grinning and staggering over it, half seeing the dreadful truth, then forgetting[49] it, and cursing and swearing. That was a sight! so much misery, and wickedness, and ruin. It was the young woman's only child. When she came to herself, she became mad, and is to this day a drivelling idiot, and goes about forever seeking for her child, and cursing the woman who killed it. This is a true tale, too true.

There is another practice which I must notice, and that is giving children laudanum to make them sleep, and keep them quiet, and for coughs and windy pains. Now, this is a most dangerous thing. I have often been called in to see children who were dying, and who did die, from laudanum given in this way. I have known four drops to kill a child a month old; and ten drops one a year old. The best rule, and one you should stick to, as under God's eye as well as the law's, is, never to give laudanum without a Doctor's line or order. And when on this subject, I would also say a word about the use of opium and laudanum among yourselves. I know this is far commoner among the poor in Edinburgh than is thought. But I assure you, from much experience, that the drunkenness and stupefaction from the use of laudanum is even worse than that from whiskey. The one poisons and makes mad the body; the other, the laudanum, poisons the mind, and makes it like an idiot's. So, in both matters beware; death is in the cup, murder is in the cup, and poverty and the workhouse,[50] and the gallows, and an awful future of pain and misery,—all are in the cup. These are the wages the Devil pays his servants with for doing his work.

But to go back to the bairns. At first a word on our old friends, the bowels. Let them alone as much as you can. They will put themselves and keep themselves right, if you take care to prevent wrong things going into the stomach. No sour apples, or raw turnips or carrots; no sweeties or tarts, and all that kind of abomination; no tea, to draw the sides of their tender little stomachs together; no whiskey, to kill their digestion; no Gundy, or Taffy, or Lick, or Black Man, or Jib; the less sugar and sweet things the better; the more milk and butter and fat the better; but plenty of plain, halesome food, parritch and milk, bread and butter, potatoes and milk, good broth,—kail as we call it. You often hear of the wonders of cod-liver oil, and they are wonders; poor little wretches who have faces like old puggies, and are all belly and no legs, and are screaming all day and all night too,—these poor little wretches under the cod-liver oil, get sonsy, and rosy, and fat, and happy, and strong. Now, this is greatly because the cod-liver oil is capital food. If you can't afford to get cod-liver oil for delicate children, or if they reject it, give them plain olive oil, a tablespoonful twice a day, and take one to yourself, and you will be astonished how you will both of you thrive.[51]

Some folk will tell you that children's feet should be always kept warm. I say no. No healthy child's feet are warm; but the great thing is to keep the body warm. That is like keeping the fire good, and the room will be warm. The chest, the breast, is the place where the fire of the body,—the heating apparatus,—is, and if you keep it warm, and give it plenty of fuel, which is fresh air and good food, you need not mind about the feetikins, they will mind themselves; indeed, for my own part, I am so ungenteel as to think bare feet and bare legs in summer the most comfortable wear, costing much less than leather and worsted, the only kind of soles that are always fresh. As to the moral training of children, I need scarcely speak to you. What people want about these things is, not knowledge, but the will to do what is right,—what they know to be right, and the moral power to do it.

Whatever you wish your child to be, be it yourself. If you wish it to be happy, healthy, sober, truthful, affectionate, honest, and godly, be yourself all these. If you wish it to be lazy and sulky, and a liar, and a thief, and a drunkard, and a swearer, be yourself all these. As the old cock crows, the young cock learns. You will remember who said, "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." And you may, as a general rule, as soon expect to gather grapes from thorns, and figs from thistles, as get[52] good, healthy, happy children from diseased and lazy and wicked parents.

Let me put you in mind, seriously, of one thing that you ought to get done to all your children, and that is, to have them vaccinated, or inoculated with the cow-pock. The best time for this is two months after birth, but better late than never, and in these times you need never have any excuse for its not being done. You have only to take your children to the Old or the New Town Dispensaries. It is a real crime, I think, in parents to neglect this. It is cruel to their child, and it is a crime to the public. If every child in the world were vaccinated, which might be managed in few years, that loathsome and deadly disease, the small-pox, would disappear from the face of the earth; but many people are so stupid, and so lazy, and so prejudiced, as to neglect this plain duty, till they find to their cost that it is too late. So promise me, all seriously in your hearts, to see to this if it is not done already, and see to it immediately.

Be always frank and open with your children. Make them trust you and tell you all their secrets. Make them feel at ease with you, and make free with them. There is no such good plaything for grown-up children like you and me as weans, wee ones. It is wonderful what you can get them to do with a little coaxing and fun. You all know this as well as I do, and you all practise it every day in your[53] own families. Here is a pleasant little story out of an old book. "A gentleman having led a company of children beyond their usual journey, they began to get weary, and all cried to him to carry them on his back, but because of their multitude he could not do this. 'But,' says he, 'I'll get horses for us all'; then cutting little wands out of the hedge as ponies for them, and a great stake as a charger for himself, this put mettle in their little legs, and they rode cheerily home." So much for a bit of ingenious fun.

One thing, however poor you are, you can give your children, and that is your prayers, and they are, if real and humble, worth more than silver or gold,—more than food and clothing, and have often brought from our Father who is in heaven, and hears our prayers, both money and meat and clothes, and all worldly good things. And there is one thing you can always teach your child; you may not yourself know how to read or write, and therefore you may not be able to teach your children how to do these things; you may not know the names of the stars or their geography, and may therefore not be able to tell them how far you are from the sun, or how big the moon is; nor be able to tell them the way to Jerusalem or Australia, but you may always be able to tell them who made the stars and numbered them, and you may tell them the road to heaven. You may always teach them to[54] pray. Some weeks ago, I was taken out to see the mother of a little child. She was very dangerously ill, and the nurse had left the child to come and help me. I went up to the nursery to get some hot water, and in the child's bed I saw something raised up. This was the little fellow under the bedclothes kneeling. I said, "What are you doing?" "I am praying God to make mamma better," said he. God likes these little prayers and these little people,—for of such is the kingdom of heaven. These are his little ones, his lambs, and he hears their cry; and it is enough if they only lisp their prayers. "Abba, Father," is all he needs; and our prayers are never so truly prayers as when they are most like children's in simplicity, in directness, in perfect fulness of reliance. "They pray right up," as black Uncle Tom says in that wonderful book, which I hope you have all read and wept over.

I forgot to speak about punishing children. I am old-fashioned enough to uphold the ancient practice of warming the young bottoms with some sharpness, if need be; it is a wholesome and capital application, and does good to the bodies, and the souls too, of the little rebels, and it is far less cruel than being sulky, as some parents are, and keeping up a grudge at their children. Warm the bott, say I, and you will warm the heart too; and all goes right.

And now I must end. I have many things I could[55] say to you, but you have had enough of me and my bairns, I am sure. Go home, and when you see the little curly pows on their pillows, sound asleep, pour out a blessing on them, and ask our Saviour to make them his; and never forget what we began with, that they came from God, and are going back to him, and let the light of eternity fall upon them as they lie asleep, and may you resolve to dedicate them and yourselves to him who died for them and for us all, and who was once himself a little child, and sucked the breasts of a woman, and who said that awful saying, "Whosoever shall offend one of these little ones, it had been better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the midst of the sea."




MY DEAR FRIENDS,—I am going to give you a sort of sermon about your health,—and you know a sermon has always a text; so, though I am only a doctor, I mean to take a text for ours, and I will choose it, as our good friends the ministers do, from that best of all books, the Bible. Job ii. 4: "All that a man hath will he give for his life."

This, you know, was said many thousands of years ago by the Devil, when, like a base and impudent fellow, as he always was and is, he came into the presence of the great God, along with the good angels. Here, for once in his life, the Devil spoke the truth and shamed himself.

What he meant, and what I wish you now seriously to consider, is, that a man—you or I—will lose anything sooner than life; we would give everything for it, and part with all the money, everything we had, to keep away death and to lengthen our days.[57] If you had £500 in a box at home, and knew that you would certainly be dead by to-morrow unless you gave the £500, would you ever make a doubt about what you would do? Not you! And if you were told that if you got drunk, or worked too hard, or took no sort of care of your bodily health, you would turn ill to-morrow and die next week, would you not keep sober, and work more moderately, and be more careful of yourself?

Now, I want to make you believe that you are too apt to do this very same sort of thing in your daily life, only that instead of to-morrow or next week, your illness and your death comes next year, or at any rate, some years sooner than otherwise. But your death is actually preparing already, and that by your own hands, by your own ignorance, and often by your own foolish and sinful neglect and indulgence. A decay or rottenness spreads through the beams of a house, unseen and unfeared, and then, by and by down it comes, and is utterly destroyed. So it is with our bodies. You plant, by sin and neglect and folly, the seeds of disease by your own hands; and as surely as the harvest comes after the seed-time, so will you reap the harvest of pain, and misery, and death. And remember there is nobody to whom health is so valuable, is worth so much, as the poor laboring man; it is his stock-in-trade, his wealth, his capital; his bodily strength and skill are the main things he can make his living[58] by, and therefore he should take better care of his body and its health than a rich man; for a rich man may be laid up in his bed for weeks and months, and yet his business may go on, for he has means to pay his men for working under him, or he may be what is called "living on his money." But if a poor man takes fever, or breaks his leg, or falls into a consumption, his wife and children soon want food and clothes: and many a time do I see on the streets poor, careworn men, dying by inches of consumption, going to and from their work, when, poor fellows, they should be in their beds; and all this just because they cannot afford to be ill and to lie out of work,—they cannot spare the time and the wages.

Now, don't you think, my dear friends, that it is worth your while to attend to your health? If you were a carter or a coach-driver, and had a horse, would you not take care to give him plenty of corn, and to keep his stable clean and well aired, and to curry his skin well, and you would not kill him with overwork, for, besides the cruelty, this would be a dead loss to you,—it would be so much out of your pocket? And don't you see that God has given you your bodies to work with, and to please him with their diligence; and it is ungrateful to him, as well as unkind and wicked to your family and yourself, to waste your bodily strength, and bring disease and death upon yourselves? But you will say, "How[59] can we make a better of it? We live from hand to mouth; we can't have fine houses and warm clothes, and rich food and plenty of it." No, I know that; but if you have not a fine house, you may always have a clean one, and fresh air costs nothing,—God gives it to all his children without stint,—and good plain clothes and meal may now be had cheaper than ever.

Health is a word that you all have some notion of, but you will perhaps have a clearer idea of it when I tell you what the word comes from. Health was long ago wholth, and comes from the word whole or hale. The Bible says, "They that are whole need not a physician"; that is, healthy people have no need of a doctor. Now, a man is whole when, like a bowl or any vessel, he is entire, and has nothing broken about him; he is like a watch that goes well, neither too fast nor too slow. But you will perhaps say, "You doctors should be able to put us all to rights, just as a watchmaker can clean and sort a watch; if you can't, what are you worth?" But the difference between a man and a watch is, that you must try to mend the man when he is going. You can't stop him and then set him agoing; and, you know, it would be no joke to a watchmaker, or to the watch, to try and clean it while it was going. But God, who does everything like himself, with his own perfectness, has put inside each of our bodies a Doctor of his own making,—one wiser than[60] we with all our wisdom. Every one of us has in himself a power of keeping and setting his health right. If a man is overworked, God has ordained that he desires rest, and that rest cures him. If he lives in a damp, close place, free and dry air cures him. If he eats too much, fasting cures him. If his skin is dirty, a good scrubbing and a bit of yellow soap will put him all to rights.

What we call disease or sickness is the opposite of health, and it comes on us,—1st. By descent from our parents. It is one of the surest of all legacies; if a man's father and mother are diseased, naturally or artificially, he will have much chance to be as bad, or worse. 2dly. Hard work brings on disease, and some kinds of work more than others. Masons who hew often fall into consumption; laborers get rheumatism, or what you call "the pains"; painters get what is called their colic, from the lead in the paint, and so on. In a world like ours, this set of causes of disease and ill health cannot be altogether got the better of; and it was God's command, after Adam's sin, that men should toil and sweat for their daily bread; but more than the half of the bad effects of hard work and dangerous employments might be prevented by a little plain knowledge, attention, and common sense. 3dly. Sin, wickedness, foolish and excessive pleasures, are a great cause of disease. Thousands die from drinking, and from following other evil courses. There[61] is no life so hard, none in which the poor body comes so badly off, and is made so miserable, as the life of a drunkard or a dissolute man. I need hardly tell you, that this cause of death and disease you can all avoid. I don't say it is easy for any man in your circumstances to keep from sin; he is a foolish or ignorant man who says so, and that there are no temptations to drinking. You are much less to blame for doing this than people who are better off; but you CAN keep from drinking, and you know as well as I do, how much better and happier, and healthier and richer and more respectable you will be if you do so. 4thly and lastly. Disease and death are often brought on from ignorance, from not knowing what are called the laws of health,—those easy, plain, common things which, if you do, you will live long, and which, if you do not do, you will die soon.

Now, I would like to make a few simple statements about this to you; and I will take the body bit by bit, and tell you some things that you should know and do in order to keep this wonderful house that your soul lives in, and by the deeds done in which you will one day be judged,—and which is God's gift and God's handiwork,—clean and comfortable, hale, strong, and hearty; for you know that, besides doing good to ourselves and our family and our neighbors with our bodily labor, we are told that we should glorify God in our bodies as well as[62] in our souls, for they are his, more his than ours,—he has bought them by the blood of his Son Jesus Christ. We are not our own, we are bought with a price; therefore ought we to glorify God with our souls and with our bodies, which are his.

Now, first, for the skin. You should take great care of it, for on its health a great deal depends; keep it clean, keep it warm, keep it dry, give it air; have a regular scrubbing of all your body every Saturday night; and, if you can manage it, you should every morning wash not only your face, but your throat and breast, with cold water, and rub yourself quite dry with a hard towel till you glow all over. You should keep your hair short if you are men; it saves you a great deal of trouble and dirt.

Then, the inside of your head,—you know what is inside your head,—your brain; you know how useful it is to you. The cleverest pair of hands among you would be of little use without brains: they would be like a body without a soul, a watch with the mainspring broken. Now, you should consider what is best for keeping the brain in good trim. One thing of great consequence is regular sleep, and plenty of it. Every man should have at the least eight hours in his bed every four-and-twenty hours, and let him sleep all the time if he can; but even if he lies awake it is a rest to his[63] wearied brain, as well as to his wearied legs and arms. Sleep is the food of the brain. Men may go mad and get silly, if they go long without sleep. Too much sleep is bad; but I need hardly warn you against that, or against too much meat. You are in no great danger from these.

Then, again, whiskey and all kinds of intoxicating liquors in excess are just so much poison to the brain. I need not say much about this, you all know it; and we all know what dreadful things happen when a man poisons his brain and makes it mad, and like a wild beast with drink; he may murder his wife, or his child, and when he comes to himself he knows nothing of how he did it, only the terrible thing is certain, that he did do it, and that he may be hanged for doing something when he was mad, and which he never dreamt of doing when in his senses: but then he knows that he made himself mad, and he must take all the wretched and tremendous consequences.

From the brains we go to the lungs,—you know where they are,—they are what the butchers call the lichts; here they are, they are the bellows that keep the fire of life going; for you must know that a clever German philosopher has made out that we are all really burning,—that our bodies are warmed by a sort of burning or combustion, as it is called,—and fed by breath and food, as a fire is fed with coals and air.[64]

Now the great thing for the lungs is plenty of fresh air, and plenty of room to play in. About seventy thousand people die every year in Britain from that disease of the lungs called consumption,—that is, nearly half the number of people in the city of Edinburgh; and it is certain that more than the half of these deaths could be prevented if the lungs had fair play. So you should always try to get your houses well ventilated, that means to let the air be often changed, and free from impure mixtures; and you should avoid crowding many into one room, and be careful to keep everything clean, and put away all filth; for filth is not only disgusting to the eye and the nose, but is dangerous to the health. I have seen a great deal of cholera, and been surrounded by dying people, who were beyond any help from doctors, and I have always found that where the air was bad, the rooms ill ventilated, cleanliness neglected, and drunkenness prevailed, there this terrible scourge, which God sends upon us, was most terrible, most rapidly and widely destructive. Believe this, and go home and consider well what I now say, for you may be sure it is true.

Now we come to the heart. You all know where it is. It is the most wonderful little pump in the world. There is no steam-engine half so clever at its work, or so strong. There it is in every one of us, beat, beating,—all day and all night, year[65] after year, never stopping, like a watch ticking; only it never needs to be wound up,—God winds it up once for all. It depends for its health on the state of the rest of the body, especially the brains and lungs. But all violent passions, all irregularities of living, damage it. Exposure to cold when drunk, falling asleep, as many poor wretches do, in stairs all night,—this often brings on disease of the heart; and you know it is not only dangerous to have anything the matter with the heart, it is the commonest of all causes of sudden death. It gives no warning; you drop down dead in a moment. So we may say of the bodily as well as of the moral organ, "Keep your heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life."

We now come to the stomach. You all know, I dare say, where it lies! It speaks for itself. Our friends in England are very respectful to their stomachs. They make a great deal of them, and we make too little. If an Englishman is ill, all the trouble is in his stomach; if an Irishman is ill, it is in his heart, and he's "kilt entirely"; and if a Scotsman, it is in his "heed." Now, I wish I saw Scots men and women as nice and particular about their stomachs, or rather about what they put into them, as their friends in England. Indeed, so much does your genuine John Bull depend on his stomach, and its satisfaction, that we may put in his mouth the stout old lines of Prior:[66]

"The plainest man alive may tell ye
The seat of empire is the Belly:
From hence are sent out those supplies,
Which make us either stout or wise;
The strength of every other member
Is founded on your Belly-timber;
The qualms or raptures of your blood
Rise in proportion to your food,
Your stomach makes your fabric roll,
Just as the bias rules the bowl:
That great Achilles might employ
The strength designed to ruin Troy,
He dined on lions' marrow, spread
On toasts of ammunition bread;
But by his mother sent away,
Amongst the Thracian girls to play,
Effeminate he sat and quiet;
Strange product of a cheese-cake diet.
Observe the various operations,
Of food and drink in several nations.
Was ever Tartar fierce or cruel,
Upon the strength of water-gruel?
But who shall stand his rage and force,
If first he rides, then eats his horse!
Salads and eggs, and lighter fare,
Turn the Italian spark's guitar;
And if I take Dan Congreve right,
Pudding and beef make Britons fight."

Good cooking is the beauty of a dinner. It really does a man as much good again if he eats his food with a relish, and with a little attention, it is as easy to cook well as ill. And let me tell the wives, that your husbands would like you all the better, and be less likely to go off to the public-house,[67] if their bit of meat or their drop of broth were well cooked. Laboring men should eat well. They should, if possible, have meat—butcher-meat—ever day. Good broth is a capital dish. But, above all, keep whiskey out of your stomachs; it really plays the very devil when it gets in. It makes the brain mad, it burns the coats of the stomach; it turns the liver into a lump of rottenness; it softens and kills the heart; it makes a man an idiot and a brute. If you really need anything stronger than good meat, take a pot of wholesome porter or ale; but I believe you are better without even that. You will be all the better able to afford good meat, and plenty of it.

With regard to your bowels,—a very important part of your interior,—I am not going to say much, except that neglect of them brings on many diseases; and laboring men are very apt to neglect them. Many years ago, an odd old man, at Green-cock, left at his death a number of sealed packets to his friends, and on opening them they found a Bible, £50, and a box of pills, and the words, "Fear God, and keep your bowels open." It was good advice, though it might have been rather more decorously worded. If you were a doctor, you would be astonished how many violent diseases of the mind, as well as of the body, are produced by irregularity of the bowels. Many years ago, an old minister, near Linlithgow, was wakened out of his sleep to go to[68] see a great lady in the neighborhood who was thought dying, and whose mind was in dreadful despair, and who wished to see him immediately. The old man, rubbing his eyes, and pushing up his Kilmarnock nightcap, said, "And when were her leddyship's booels opened?" And finding, after some inquiry, that they were greatly in arrears, "I thocht sae. Rax me ower that pill-box on the chimney-piece, and gie my compliments to Leddy Margret, and tell her to tak thae twa pills, and I'll be ower by and by mysel'." They did as he bade them. They did their duty, and the pills did theirs, and her leddyship was relieved, and she was able at breakfast-time to profit by the Christian advice of the good old man, which she could not have done when her nerves were all wrong. The old Greeks, who were always seeking after wisdom, and didn't always find it, showed their knowledge and sense in calling depression of mind Melancholy, which means black bile. Leddy Margret's liver, I have no doubt, had been distilling this perilous stuff.

My dear friends, there is one thing I have forgot to mention, and that is about keeping common-stairs clean; you know they are often abominably filthy, and they aggravate fever, and many of your worst and most deadly diseases; for you may keep your own houses never so clean and tidy, but if the common-stair is not kept clean too, all its foul air comes[69] into your rooms, and into your lungs, and poisons you. So let all in the stair resolve to keep it clean, and well aired.

But I must stop now. I fear I have wearied you. You see I had nothing new to tell you. The great thing in regulating and benefiting human life, is not to find out new things, but to make the best of the old things,—to live according to Nature, and the will of Nature's God,—that great Being who bids us call him our Father, and who is at this very moment regarding each one of us with far more than any earthly father's compassion and kindness, and who would make us all happy if we would but do his bidding, and take his road. He has given us minds by which we may observe the laws he has ordained in our bodies, and which are as regular and as certain in their effects, and as discoverable by us as the motions of the sun, moon, and stars in the heavens; and we shall not only benefit ourselves and live longer and work better and be happier, by knowing and obeying these laws, from love to ourselves, but we shall please him, we shall glorify him, and make him our Friend,—only think of that! and get his blessing, by taking care of our health, from love to him, and a regard to his will, in giving us these bodies of ours to serve him with, and which he has, with his own almighty hands, so fearfully and wonderfully made.

I hope you will pardon my plainness in speaking[70] to you. I am quite in earnest, and I have a deep regard, I may say a real affection, for you; for I know you well. I spent many of my early years as a doctor in going about among you. I have attended you long ago when ill; I have delivered your wives, and been in your houses when death was busy with you and yours, and I have seen your fortitude, energy, and honest, hearty, generous kindness to each other; your readiness to help your neighbors with anything you have, and to share your last sixpence and your last loaf with them. I wish I saw half as much real neighborliness and sympathy among what are called your betters. If a poor man falls down in a fit on the street, who is it that takes him up and carries him home, and gives him what he needs? it is not the man with a fine coat and gloves on,—it is the poor, dirty-coated, hard-handed, warm-hearted laboring man.

Keep a good hold of all these homely and sturdy virtues, and add to them temperance and diligence, cleanliness and thrift, good knowledge, and, above all, the love and the fear of God, and you will not only be happy yourselves, but you will make this great and wonderful country of ours which rests upon you still more wonderful and great.




MY DEAR FRIENDS,—We are going to ring in now, and end our course. I will be sorry and glad, and you will be the same. We are this about everything. It is the proportion that settles it. I am, upon the whole, as we say, sorry, and I dare say on the whole you are not glad. I dislike parting with anything or anybody I like, for it is ten to one if we meet again.

My text is, "That His way may he known upon earth; His saving health to all nations." You will find it in that perfect little Psalm, the 67th. But before taking it up, I will, as my dear father used to say,—you all remember him, his keen eye and voice; his white hair, and his grave, earnest, penetrating look; and you should remember and possess his Canongate Sermon to you,—"The Bible, what it is, what it does, and what it deserves,"—well, he used to say, let us recapitulate a little. It is a long and rather kittle word, but it is the only one that we have. He made it longer, but not less alive, by turning it into[72] "a few recapitulatory remarks." What ground then have we travelled over? First, our duties to and about the Doctor; to call him in time, to trust him, to obey him, to be grateful to, and to pay him with our money and our hearts and our good word, if we have all these; if we have not the first, with twice as much of the others. Second, the Doctor's duties to us. He should be able and willing to cure us. That is what he is there for. He should be sincere, attentive, and tender to us, keeping his time and our secrets. We must tell him all we know about our ailments and their causes, and he must tell us all that is good for us to know, and no more. Third, your duties to your children; to the wee Willie Winkies and the little wifies that come toddlin' hame. It is your duty to mind them. It is a capital Scotch use of this word: they are to be in your mind; you are to exercise your understanding about them; to give them simple food; to keep goodies and trash, and raw pears and whiskey, away from their tender mouths and stomachs; to give them that never-ending meal of good air, night and day, which is truly food and fire to them and you; to be good before as well as to them, to speak and require the truth in love,—that is a wonderful expression, isn't it?—the truth in love; that, if acted on by us all, would bring the millennium next week; to be plain and homely with them, never spaining their minds from you. You are all sorry,[73] you mothers, when you have to spain their mouths; it is a dreadful business that to both parties; but there is a spaining of the affections still more dreadful, and that need never be, no, never, neither in this world nor in that which is to come. Dr. Waugh, of London, used to say to bereaved mothers, Rachels weeping for their children, and refusing to be comforted, for that simplest of all reasons, because they were not, after giving them God's words of comfort, clapping them on the shoulders, and fixing his mild deep eyes on them (those who remember those eyes well know what they could mean), "My woman, your bairn is where it will have two fathers, but never but one mother."

You should also, when the time comes, explain to your children what about their own health and the ways of the world they ought to know, and for the want of the timely knowledge of which many a life and character has been lost. Show them, moreover, the value you put upon health, by caring for your own.

Do your best to get your sons well married, and soon. By "well married," I mean that they should pair off old-fashionedly, for love, and marry what deserves to be loved, as well as what is lovely. I confess I think falling in love is the best way to begin; but then the moment you fall, you should get up and look about you, and see how the land lies, and whether it is as goodly as it looks. I[74] don't like walking into love, or being carried into love; or, above all, being sold or selling yourself into it, which, after all, is not it. And by "soon," I mean as soon as they are keeping themselves; for a wife, such a wife as alone I mean, is cheaper to a young man than no wife, and is his best companion.

Then for your duties to yourselves. See that you make yourself do what is immediately just to your body, feed it when it is really hungry; let it sleep when it, not its master, desires sleep; make it happy, poor hard-working fellow! and give it a gambol when it wants it and deserves it, and as long as it can execute it. Dancing is just the music of the feet, and the gladness of the young legs, and is well called the poetry of motion. It is like all other natural pleasures, given to be used, and to be not abused, either by yourself or by those who don't like it, and don't enjoy your doing it,—shabby dogs these, beware of them! And if this be done, it is a good and a grace, as well as pleasure, and satisfies some good end of our being, and in its own way glorifies our Maker. Did you ever see anything in this world more beautiful than the lambs running races and dancing round the big stone of the field; and does not your heart get young when you hear,—

"Here we go by Jingo ring,
Jingo ring, Jingo ring;
Here we go by Jingo ring,
About the merry ma tanzie."

This is just a dance in honor of poor old pagan Jingo; measured movements arising from and giving happiness. We have no right to keep ourselves or others from natural pleasures; and we are all too apt to interfere with and judge harshly the pleasures of others; hence we who are stiff and given to other pleasures, and who, now that we are old, know the many wickednesses of the world, are too apt to put the vices of the jaded, empty old heart, like a dark and ghastly fire burnt out, into the feet and the eyes, and the heart and the head of the young. I remember a story of a good old Antiburgher minister. It was in the days when dancing was held to be a great sin, and to be dealt with by the session. Jessie, a comely, and good, and blithe young woman, a great favorite of the minister's, had been guilty of dancing at a friend's wedding. She was summoned before the session to be "dealt with,"—the grim old fellows sternly concentrating their eyes upon her, as she stood trembling in her striped short-gown, and her pretty bare feet. The Doctor, who was one of divinity, and a deep thinker, greatly pitying her and himself, said, "Jessie, my woman, were ye dancin'?"

"Yes," sobbed Jessie.

"Ye maun e'en promise never to dance again, Jessie."

"I wull, sir; I wull promise," with a courtesy.

"Now, what were ye thinking o', Jessie, when[76] ye were dancin'? tell us truly," said an old elder, who had been a poacher in youth.

"Nae ill, sir," sobbed out the dear little woman.

"Then, Jessie, my woman, aye dance," cried the delighted Doctor.

And so say I, to the extent, that so long as our young girls think "nae ill," they may dance their own and their feet's fills; and so on with all the round of the sunshine and flowers God has thrown on and along the path of his children.

Lastly, your duty to your own bodies: to preserve them; to make, or rather let—for they are made so to go—their wheels go sweetly; to keep the girs firm round the old barrel; neither to over nor under work our bodies, and to listen to their teaching and their requests, their cries of pain and sorrow; and to keep them as well as your souls unspotted from the world. If you want to know a good book on Physiology, or the Laws of Health and of Life, get Dr. Combe's Physiology; and let all you mothers get his delightful Management of Infancy. You will love him for his motherly words. You will almost think he might have worn petticoats,—for tenderness he might; but in mind and will and eye he was every inch a man. It is now long since he wrote, but I have seen nothing so good since; he is so intelligent, so reverent, so full of the solemnity, the sacredness, the beauty, and joy of life, and its work; so full of sympathy for[77] suffering, himself not ignorant of such evil,—for the latter half of his life was a daily, hourly struggle with death, fighting the destroyer from within with the weapons of life, his brain and his conscience. It is very little physiology that you require, so that it is physiology, and is suitable for your need. I can't say I like our common people, or indeed, what we call our ladies and gentlemen, poking curiously into all the ins and outs of our bodies as a general accomplishment, and something to talk of. No, I don't like it. I would rather they chose some other ology. But let them get enough to give them awe and love, light and help, guidance and foresight.

These, with good sense and good senses, humility, and a thought of a hereafter in this world as well as in the next, will make us as able to doctor ourselves—especially to act in the preventive service, which is your main region of power for good—as in this mortal world we have any reason to expect. And let us keep our hearts young, and they will keep our legs and our arms the same. For we know now that hearts are kept going by having strong, pure, lively blood; if bad blood goes into the heart, it gets angry, and shows this by beating at our breasts, and frightening us; and sometimes it dies of sheer anger and disgust, if its blood is poor or poisoned, thin and white. "He may dee, but he'll never grow auld," said a canty old wife of her old minister, whose cheek was ruddy like an apple.[78]

Run for the Doctor; don't saunter to him, or go in, by the by, as an old elder of my father's did, when his house was on fire. He was a perfect Nathanael, and lived more in the next world than in this, as you will soon see. One winter night he slipped gently into his neighbor's cottage, and found James Somerville reading aloud by the blaze of the licht coal; he leant over the chair, and waited till James closed the book, when he said, "By the by, I am thinkin' ma hoose is on fire!" and out he and they all ran, in time to see the auld biggin' fall in with a glorious blaze. So it is too often when that earthly house of ours—our cottage, our tabernacle—is getting on fire. One moment your finger would put out what in an hour all the waters of Clyde would be too late for. If the Doctor is needed, the sooner the better. If he is not, he can tell you so, and you can rejoice that he had a needless journey, and pay him all the more thankfully. So run early and at once. How many deaths—how many lives of suffering and incapacity—may be spared by being in time! by being a day or two sooner. With children this is especially the case, and with workingmen in the full prime of life. A mustard plaster, a leech, a pill, fifteen drops of Ipecacuanha wine, a bran poultice, a hint, or a stitch in time, may do all and at once, when a red-hot iron, a basinful of blood, all the wisdom of our art, and all the energy of the Doctor, all your tenderness[79] and care, are in vain. Many a child's life is saved by an emetic at night, who would be lost in twelve hours. So send in time; it is just to your child or the patient, and to yourself; it is just to your Doctor; for I assure you we Doctors are often sorry, and angry enough, when we find we are too late. It affronts us, and our powers, besides affronting life and all its meanings, and Him who gives it. And we really enjoy curing; it is like running and winning a race,—like hunting and finding and killing our game. And then remember to go to the Doctor early in the day, as well as in the disease. I always like my patients to send and say that they would like the Doctor "to call before he goes out!" This is like an Irish message, you will say; but there is "sinse" in it. Fancy a Doctor being sent for, just as he is in bed, to see some one, and on going he finds they had been thinking of sending in the morning, and that he has to run neck and neck with death, with the odds all against him.

I now wind up with some other odds and ends. I give you them as an old wife would empty her pockets,—such wallets they used to be!—in no regular order; here a bit of string, now a bit of gingerbread, now an "aiple," now a bunch of keys, now an old almanac, now three bawbees and a bad shilling, a "wheen" buttons all marrowless, a thimble, a bit of black sugar, and maybe at the very bottom a "goold guinea."[80]

Shoes.—It is amazing the misery the people of civilization endure in and from their shoes. Nobody is ever, as they should be, comfortable at once in them; they hope in the long-run and after much agony, and when they are nearly done, to make them fit, especially if they can get them once well wet, so that the mighty knob of the big toe may adjust himself and be at ease. For my part, if I were rich, I would advertise for a clean, wholesome man, whose foot was exactly my size, and I would make him wear my shoes till I could put them on, and not know I was in them.[1] Why is all this? Why do you see every man's and woman's feet so out of shape? Why are there corns, with their miseries and maledictions? Why the virulence and unreachableness of those that are "soft"? Why do our nails grow in, and sometimes have to be torn violently off?

[1] Frederick the Great kept an aid-de-camp for this purpose, and, poor fellow! he sometimes wore them too long, and got a kicking for his pains.

All because the makers and users of shoes have not common sense, and common reverence for God and his works enough to study the shape and motions of that wonderful pivot on which we turn and progress. Because Fashion,—that demon that I wish I saw dressed in her own crinoline, in bad shoes, a man's old hat, and trailing petticoats, and with her (for she must be a her) waist well nipped [81]by a circlet of nails with the points inmost, and any other of the small torments, mischiefs, and absurdities she destroys and makes fools of us with,—whom, I say, I wish I saw drummed and hissed, blazing and shrieking, out of the world,—because this contemptible slave, which domineers over her makers, says the shoe must be elegant, must be so and so, and the beautiful living foot must be crushed into it, and human nature must limp along Princess Street and through life natty and wretched.

It makes me angry when I think of all this. Now, do you want to know how to put your feet into new shoes, and yourself into a new world? Go and buy from Edmonston and Douglas sixpence worth of sense, in Why the Shoe Pinches; you will, if you get your shoemaker to do as it bids him, go on your ways rejoicing; no more knobby, half-dislocated big toes; no more secret parings, and slashings desperate, in order to get on that pair of exquisite boots or shoes.

Then there is the Infirmary.—Nothing I like better than to see subscriptions to this admirable house of help and comfort to the poor, advertised as from the quarry men of Craigleith; from Mr. Milne the brassfounder's men; from Peeblesshire; from the utmost Orkneys; and from those big, human mastiffs, the navvies. And yet we doctors are often met by the most absurd and obstinate objections by domestic servants in town, and by country[82] people, to going there. This prejudice is lessening, but it is still great. "O, I canna gang into the Infirmary; I would rather dee!" Would you, indeed? Not you, or, if so, the sooner the better. They have a notion that they are experimented on, and slain by the surgeons; neglected and poisoned by the nurses, etc., etc. Such utter nonsense! I know well about the inner life and work of at least our Infirmary, and of that noble old Minto House, now gone; and I would rather infinitely, were I a servant, 'prentice boy, or shopman, a porter, or student, and anywhere but in a house of my own, and even then, go straight to the Infirmary, than lie in a box-bed off the kitchen, or on the top of the coal-bunker, or in a dark hole in the lobby, or in a double-bedded room. The food, the bedding, the physicians, the surgeons, the clerks, the dressers, the medicines, the wine and porter,—and they don't scrimp these when necessary,—the books, the Bibles, the baths, are all good,—are all better far than one man in ten thousand can command in his own house. So off with a grateful heart and a fearless to the Infirmary, and your mistress can come in and sit beside you; and her doctor and yours will look in and single you out with his smile and word, and cheer you and the ward by a kindly joke, and you will come out well cured, and having seen much to do you good for life. I never knew any one who was once in, afraid of going back; they know better.[83]

There are few things in human nature finer than the devotion and courage of medical men to their hospital and charitable duties; it is to them a great moral discipline. Not that they don't get good—selfish good—to themselves. Why shouldn't they? Nobody does good without getting it; it is a law of the government of God. But, as a rule, our medical men are not kind and skilful and attentive to their hospital patients, because this is to make them famous, or even because through this they are to get knowledge and fame; they get all this, and it is their only and their great reward. But they are in the main disinterested men. Honesty is the best policy; but, as Dr. Whately, in his keen way, says, "that man is not honest who is so for this reason," and so with the doctors and their patients. And I am glad to say for my profession, few of them take this second-hand line of duty.

Beards.—I am for beards out and out, because I think the Maker of the beard was and is. This is reason enough; but there are many others. The misery of shaving, its expense, its consumption of time,—a very corporation existing for no other purpose but to shave mankind. Campbell the poet, who had always a bad razor, I suppose, and was late of rising, said he believed the man of civilization who lived to be sixty had suffered more pain in littles every day in shaving than a woman with a large family had from her lyings-in. This would[84] be hard to prove; but it is a process that never gets pleasanter by practice; and then the waste of time and temper,—the ugliness of being ill or unshaven. Now, we can easily see advantages in it; the masculine gender is intended to be more out of doors, and more in all weathers than the smooth-chinned ones, and this protects him and his Adam's apple from harm. It acts as the best of all respirators to the mason and the east-wind. Besides, it is a glory; and it must be delightful to have and to stroke a natural beard, not one like bean-stalks or a bottle-brush, but such a beard as Abraham's or Abd-el-Kader's. It is the beginning ever to cut, that makes all the difference. I hazard a theory, that no hair of the head or beard should ever be cut, or needs it, any more than the eyebrows or eyelashes. The finest head of hair I know is one which was never cut. It is not too long; it is soft and thick. The secret where to stop growing is in the end of the native untouched hair. If you cut it off, the poor hair does not know when to stop; and if our eyebrows were so cut, they might be made to hang over our eyes, and be wrought into a veil. Besides, think of the waste of substance of the body in hewing away so much hair every morning, and encouraging an endless rotation of crops! Well, then, I go in for the beards of the next generation, the unshorn beings whose beards will be wagging when we are away; but of course they must be clean.[85] But how are we to sup our porridge and kail? Try it when young, when there is just a shadowy down on the upper lip, and no fears but they will do all this "elegantly" even. Nature is slow and gentle in her teaching even the accomplishment of the spoon. And as for women's hair, don't plaster it with scented and sour grease, or with any grease; it has an oil of its own. And don't tie up your hair tight, and make it like a cap of iron over your skull. And why are your ears covered? You hear all the worse, and they are not the cleaner. Besides, the ear is beautiful in itself, and plays its own part in the concert of the features. Go back to the curls, some of you, and try in everything to dress as it becomes you, and as you become; not as that fine lady, or even your own Tibbie or Grizzy chooses to dress, it may be becomingly to her. Why shouldn't we even in dress be more ourselves than somebody or everybody else?

I had a word about Teeth. Don't get young children's teeth drawn. At least, let this be the rule. Bad teeth come of bad health and bad and hot food, and much sugar. I can't say I am a great advocate for the common people going in for tooth-brushes. No, they are not necessary in full health. The healthy man's teeth clean themselves, and so does his skin. A good dose of Gregory often puts away the toothache. It is a great thing, however, to get them early stuffed, if they need it;[86] that really keeps them and your temper whole. For appearance' sake merely, I hate false teeth, as I hate a wig. But this is not a matter to dogmatize about. I never was, I think, deceived by either false hair, or false teeth, or false eyes, or false cheeks, for there are in the high—I don't call it the great—world, plumpers for making the cheeks round, as well as a certain dust for making them bloom. But you and I don't enjoy such advantages.

Rheumatism is peculiarly a disease of the workingman. One old physician said its only cure was patience and flannel. Another said six weeks. But I think good flannel and no drunkenness (observe, I don't say no drinking, though very nearly so) are its best preventives. It is a curious thing, the way in which cold gives rheumatism. Suppose a man is heated and gets cooled, and being very well at any rate, and is sitting or sleeping in a draught; the exposed part is chilled; the pores of its skin, which are always exuding and exhaling waste from the body, contract and shut in this bad stuff; it—this is my theory—not getting out is taken up by a blunder of the deluded absorbents, who are always prowling about for something, and it is returned back to the centre, and finds its way into the blood, and poisons it, affecting the heart, and carrying bad money, bad change, bad fat, bad capital all over the body, making nerves, lungs, everything unhappy and[87] angry. This vitiated blood arrives by and by at the origin of its mischief, the chilled shoulder, and here it wreaks its vengeance, and in doing so, does some general good at local expense. It gives pain; it produces a certain inflammation of its own, and if it is not got rid of by the skin and other ways, it may possibly kill by the rage the body gets in, and the heat; or it may inflame the ill-used heart itself, and then either kill, or give the patient a life of suffering and peril. The medicines we give act not only by detecting this poison of blood, which, like yeast, leavens all in its neighborhood, but by sending it out of the body like a culprit.

Vaccination.—One word for this. Never neglect it; get it done within two months after birth, and see that it is well done; and get all your neighbors to do it.

Infectious Diseases.—Keep out of their way; kill them by fresh air and cleanliness; defy them by cheerfulness, good food (better food than usual, in such epidemics as cholera), good sleep, and a good conscience.

When in the midst of and waiting on those who are under the scourge of an epidemic, be as little very close to the patient as you can, and don't inhale his or her breath or exhalations when you can help it; be rather in the current to, than from him. Be very cleanly in putting away all excretions at once, and quite away; go frequently into the fresh[88] air; and don't sleep in your day clothes. Do what the Doctor bids you; don't crowd round your dying friend; you are stealing his life in taking his air, and you are quietly killing yourself. This is one of the worst and most unmanageable of our Scottish habits, and many a time have I cleared the room of all but one, and dared them to enter it.

Then you should, in such things as small-pox, as indeed in everything, carry out the Divine injunction, "Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so to them." Don't send for the minister to pray with and over the body of a patient in fever or delirium, or a child dying of small-pox or malignant scarlet fever; tell him, by all means, and let him pray with you, and for your child. Prayers, you know, are like gravitation, or the light of heaven; they will go from whatever place they are uttered; and if they are real prayers, they go straight and home to the centre, the focus of all things; and you know that poor fellow with the crust of typhus on his lips, and its nonsense on his tongue,—that child tossing in misery, not knowing even its own mother,—what can they know, what heed can they give to the prayer of the minister? He may do all the good he can,—the most good maybe when, like Moses on the hillside, in the battle with Amalek, he uplifts his hands apart. No! a word spoken by your minister to himself and his God, a single sigh for mercy to[89] him who is mercy, a cry of hope, of despair of self, opening into trust in him, may save that child's life, when an angel might pour forth in vain his burning, imploring words into the dull or wild ears of the sufferer, in the vain hope of getting him to pray. I never would allow my father to go to typhus cases; and I don't think they lost anything by it. I have seen him rising in the dark of his room from his knees, and I knew whose case he had been laying at the footstool.

And now, my dear friends, I find I have exhausted our time, and never yet got to the sermon, and its text—"That the way of God"—what is it? It is his design in setting you here; it is the road he wishes you to walk in; it is his providence in your minutest as in the world's mightiest things; it is his will expressed in his works and word, and in your own soul it is his salvation. That it "may be known," that the understandings of his intelligent, responsible, mortal and immortal creatures should be directed to it, to study and (as far as we ever can or need) to understand that which, in its fulness, passes all understanding; that it may be known "on the earth," here, in this very room, this very minute; not, as too many preachers and performers do, to be known only in the next world,—men who, looking at the stars, stumble at their own door, and it may be smoor their own child, besides despising, upsetting, and extinguishing their[90] own lantern. No! the next world is only to be reached through this; and our road through this our wilderness is not safe unless on the far beyond there is shining the lighthouse on the other side of the dark river that has no bridge. Then "His saving health"; His health—whose?—God's—his soundness, the wholeness, the perfectness, that is alone in and from him,—health of body, of heart, and brain, health to the finger-ends, health for eternity as well as time. "Saving"; we need to be saved, and we are salvable, this is much; and God's health can save us, that is more. When a man or woman is fainting from loss of blood, we sometimes try to save them, when all but gone, by transfusing the warm rich blood of another into their veins. Now this is what God, through his Son, desires to do; to transfuse his blood, himself, through his Son, who is himself, into us, diseased and weak. "And" refers to his health being "known," recognized, accepted, used, "among all nations"; not among the U.P.s, or the Frees, or the Residuaries, or the Baptists, or the New Jerusalem people,—nor among us in the Canongate, or in Biggar, or even in old Scotland, but "among all nations"; then, and only then, will the people praise thee, O God; will all the people praise thee. Then, and then only, will the earth yield her increase, and God, even our own God, will bless us. God will bless us, and all the ends of the earth shall fear him.[91]

And now, my dear and patient friends, we must say good night. You have been very attentive, and it has been a great pleasure to me as we went on to preach to you. We came to understand one another. You saw through my jokes, and that they were not always nothing but jokes. You bore with my solemnities, because I am not altogether solemn; and so good night, and God bless you, and may you, as Don Quixote, on his death-bed, says to Sancho, May you have your eyes closed by the soft fingers of your great-grandchildren. But no, I must shake hands with you, and kiss the bairns,—why shouldn't I? if their mouths are clean and their breath sweet? As for you, Ailie, you are wearying for the child; and he is tumbling and fretting in his cradle, and wearying for you; good by, and away you go on your milky way. I wish I could (unseen) see you two enjoying each other. And good night, my bonnie wee wifie; you are sleepy, and you must be up to make your father's porridge; and Master William Winkie, will you be still for one moment while I address you? Well, Master William, wamble not off your mother's lap, neither rattle in your excruciating way in an airn jug wi' an airn spoon; no more crowing like a cock, or skirlin' like a kenna-what. I had much more to say to you, sir, but you will not bide still; off with you, and a blessing with you.

Good night, Hugh Cleland, the best smith of any[92] smiddy; with your bowly back, your huge arms, your big heavy brows and eyebrows, your clear eye, and warm unforgetting heart. And you, John Noble, let me grip your horny hand, and count the queer knobs made by the perpetual mell. I used, when I was a Willie Winkie, and wee, to think that you were born with them. Never mind, you were born for them, and of old you handled the trowel well, and built to the plumb. Thomas Bertram, your loom is at a discount, but many's the happy day I have watched you and your shuttle, and the interweaving treadles, and all the mysteries of setting the "wab." You are looking well, and though not the least of an ass, you might play Bottom must substantially yet. Andrew Wilson, across the waste of forty years and more I snuff the fragrance of your shop; have you forgiven me yet for stealing your paint-pot (awful joy!) for ten minutes to adorn my rabbit-house, and for blunting your pet furmer? Wise you were always, and in the saw-pit you spoke little, and wore your crape. Yourself wears well, but take heed of swallowing your shavings unawares, as is the trick of you "wrights"; they confound the interior and perplex the Doctor.

Rob Rough, you smell of rosin, and your look is stern, nevertheless, or all the rather, give me your hand. What a grip! You have been the most sceptical of all my hearers; you like to try everything,[93] and you hold fast only what you consider good; and then on your crepida or stool, you have your own think about everything human and divine, as you smite down errors on the lapstane, and "yerk" your arguments with a well-rosined lingle; throw your window open for yourself as well as for your blackbird; and make your shoes not to pinch. I present you, sir, with a copy of the book of the wise Switzer.

And nimble Pillans, the clothier of the race, and quick as your needle, strong as your corduroys, I bid you good night. May you and the cooper be like him of Fogo, each a better man than his father; and you, Mungo the mole-catcher, and Tod Laurie, and Sir Robert the cadger, and all the other odd people, I shake your fists twice, for I like your line. I often wish I had been a mole-catcher, with a brown velveteen, or (fine touch of tailoric fancy!) a moleskin coat; not that I dislike moles,—I once ate the fore-quarter of one, having stewed it in a Florence flask, some forty years ago, and liked it,—but I like the killing of them, and the country by-ways, and the regularly irregular life, and the importance of my trade.

And good night to you all, you women-folks. Marion Graham the milkwoman; Tibbie Meek the single servant; Jenny Muir the sempstress; Mother Johnston the howdie, thou consequential Mrs. Gamp, presiding at the gates of life; and you in the corner[94] there, Nancy Cairns, gray-haired, meek and old, with your crimped mutch as white as snow; the shepherd's widow, the now childless mother, you are stepping home to your bein and lonely room, where your cat is now ravelling a' her thrums, wondering where "she" is.

Good night to you all, big and little, young and old; and go home to your bedside, there is Some One waiting there for you, and his Son is here ready to take you to him. Yes, he is waiting for every one of you, and you have only to say, "Father, I have sinned,—take me"—and he sees you a great way off. But to reverse the parable; it is the first-born, your elder brother, who is at your side, and leads you to your Father, and says, "I have paid his debt"; that Son who is ever with him, whose is all that he hath.

I need not say more. You know what I mean. You know who is waiting, and you know who it is who stands beside you, having the likeness of the Son of Man. Good night! The night cometh in which neither you nor I can work,—may we work while it is day; whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might, for there is no work or device in the grave, whither we are all of us hastening; and when the night is spent, may we all enter on a healthful, a happy, an everlasting to-morrow!

Cambridge: Printed by Welch, Bigelow, & Co.




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