Oatmeal, bracing Calvinism, and Paradise Lost

Alexander Murdoch Mackay

We get a lot of old books from *bay and have been collecting missionary biographies lately. One we just got, in excellent condition, is “Mackay of Uganda” written by his sister.

I picked it up last night and began to read (which Al says is all I ever do, begin to read – I never seem to finish my books!) Anyway, I enjoyed this section describing how the Free Church Manses produced such extraordinary men…

“Some attribute it to the stern training in duty, others to the bracing influence of the Calvinistic creed. A celebrated London physician declares it is due to the severity of the northern climate, while another suggests that the oatmeal is especially favourable to intellectual vitality. But whatever truth there may be in these opinions, we are inclined to think that it is mainly due to the Spirit of Christ in the home, to the purity of the parents’ lives, to the godly upbringing of their children, and to the intellectual atmosphere to which they are accustomed, consquent largely on the university training and literary tastes and friendships of the father, – in a word, plain living, high thinking, and that ‘godliness which is profitable to all things.”

Mackay’s father instructed his son in all things until the age of fourteen. He was reading the New Testament at age three!!! (Frances Ridley Havergal was also a toddler reader, hmmm, she must’ve had a lot of good oatmeal too!) At seven, his textbooks included: Milton’s “Paradise Lost”, Russell’s “History of Modern Europe”, Gibbon’s “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” and Robertson’s “History of the Discovery of America.”

Today, I went to get this biography to pick up where I left off, but it was gone! I found it on Al’s reading pile. Oh well, I have to run to the grocery store for more oatmeal anyway.

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