Love That Soap

Thomas Babington Macaulay is responsible for these famous words: “The Puritan hated bear-baiting, not because it gave pain to the bear, but because it gave pleasure to the spectators.”

Spiritual things are spiritually discerned, and perhaps it takes a Puritan to know one; in any case, it takes a special kind of sympathy to appreciate the Puritan. Perry of Harvard has a wonderful book called Puritanism and Democracy which everyone should read before starting any outcries against “legalism” and “moralism” and “Pharisaism.” The Puritans built iron into the American way of life, and in so doing they were not exactly “reeds shaken by the wind.” Perry appreciates the ordered thrill the Puritan had when he “did the right thing.” His exercise in personal discipline gave him something of the same pleasure a man gets when he knocks a few seconds off the two-mile run.

The best thing to do with Macaulay’s word is to accept it and then glory in it. “The Puritan hated bear-baiting because it gave pleasure to the spectators.” Exactly. If he had any love for humanity at all and any sensitivity in spiritual things, he would find intolerable the disintegration that takes place in people when they enjoy cruelty. The Puritan had something that needs to be hammered back into our beloved American Way. Must we not condemn again the things that give the wrong kinds of pleasure for the wrong kinds of reasons? The Madison Avenue boys even want us to love soap and hair sprays.

The Holy Spirit of God is called the Spirit of Truth, and we are urged above measure to abide in the Truth. This is just not a live option among many interesting possibilities; the Puritans were right. There are things both false and cruel which we ought to learn ...

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