For the previous installment, click here. I include all of Paton’s comments reflecting his total abstinence views, though I do not share them. They do provide an accurate picture of what some laborers in the city mission movement themselves endorsed.
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Great good resulted from this Total Abstinence work. Many adults took and kept the pledge, thereby greatly increasing the comfort and happiness of their homes. Many were led to attend the church on the Lord’s Day, who had formerly spent it in rioting and drinking. But, above all, it trained the young to fear the very name of intoxicating drink, and to hate and keep far away from everything that led to intemperance. From observation, at an early age I became convinced that mere Temperance Societies were a failure, and that Total Abstinence, by the grace of God, was the only sure preventive as well as remedy. What was temperance in one man was drunkenness in another ; and all the drunkards came not from those who practised total abstinence, but from those who practised or tried to practise temperance. I had seen temperance
men drinking wine in the presence of others who drank to excess, and never could see how they felt clear of blame; and I had known ministers and others, once strong temperance advocates, fall through their “moderation ” and become drunkards. Therefore it has all my life appeared to me beyond dispute, in reference to intoxicants of every kind, that the only rational temperance is total abstinence from them as beverages, and the use of them only as drugs, and then only with extreme caution, as they are deceptive and deleterious poisons of the most debasing and demoralizing kind. I found also, that when I tried to reclaim a drunkard, or caution any one as to intemperate habits, one of the first questions was,— “Are you a pledged Abstainer yourself?” By being enabled to reply decidedly, ” Yes, I am,” the mouth of the objector was closed ; and that gave me a hundred-fold more influence with him than if I had had to confess that I was only “temperate.” For the good of others, and for the increase of their personal influence as the servants of Christ, I would plead with every Minister and Missionary, every officebearer and Sabbath school teacher, every one who wishes to work for the Lord Jesus in the family, the Church, and the world, to be a Total Abstainer from all intoxicating drinks.
I would add my testimony also against the use of tobacco, which injures and leads many astray, especially the very young, and which never can be required by any person in ordinary health. But I would not be understood to regard the evils that flow from it as deserving to be mentioned in comparison with the unutterable woes and miseries of intemperance. To be protected, however, from suspicion and from evil, all the followers of Jesus should, in self-denial (how small!) and consecration to His service, be pledged Abstainers from both of these selfish indulgences, which are certainly injurious to many, which are no ornament to any character, and which can be no help in well-doing. Praise God for the many who are now so pledged! Happy day for poor Humanity, when all the Lord’s people adopt this self-denying ordinance for the good of the race !
Not boastfully, but gratefully, let me record that my Classes and Meetings were now attended by such numbers that they were amongst the largest and most successful that the City Mission had ever known ; and by God’s blessing I was enabled to develop them into a regular, warmly attached, and intelligent Congregation. My work, however exacting, was full of joy to me. From five to six hundred people were in usual weekly attendance; consisting exclusively of poor working persons, and largely of the humbler class of mill-workers. So soon as their circumstances improved, they were constantly removing to more respectable and healthy localities, and got to be scattered over all the city. But wherever they went, I visited them regularly to prevent their falling away, and held by them till I got them interested in some Church near where they had gone to live. On my return, many years after, from the Foreign Mission field, there was scarcely a congregation in any part of the city where some one did not warmly salute me with the cry, ” Don’t you remember me ?” And then, after greetings, came the well-remembered name of one or other member of my old Bible Class.
Such toils left me but small time for private studies. The City Missionary was required to spend four hours daily in his work ; but often had I to spend double that time, day after day, in order to overtake what was laid upon me. About eight or ten of my most devoted young men, and double that number of young women, whom I had trained to become visitors and tract distributors, greatly strengthened my hands. Each of the young men by himself, and the young women two by two, had charge of a portion of a street, which was visited by them regularly twice every month. At a monthly meeting of all our Workers, reports were given in, changes were noted, and all matters brought under notice were attended to. Besides, if any note or message were left at my lodging, or any case of sickness or want reported, it was looked after by me without delay. Several Christian gentlemen, mill-owners and other employers in the Gallon, Mile-end, and Bridgeton of Glasgow, were so interested in my work that they kindly offered to give employment to every deserving person recommended by me, and that relieved much distress and greatly increased my influence for good.
Almost the only enemies I had were the keepers of Public-Houses, whose trade had been injured by my Total Abstinence Society. Besides the Saturday night meetings all the year round, we held, in summer evenings and on Saturday afternoons, Evangelistic and Total Abstinence services in the open air. We met in Thomson’s Lane, a short, broad street, not open for the traffic of conveyances, and admirably situated for our purposes. Our pulpit was formed by the top of an outside stair, leading to the second flat of a house in the middle of the lane. Prominent Christian workers took part with us in delivering addresses; an intimation through my classes usually secured good audiences; and the hearty singing of hymns by my Mission Choir gave zest and joy to the whole proceedings. Of other so-called ” attractions ” we had none, and needed none, save the sincere proclamation of the Good Tidings from God to men!
On one occasion, it becoming known that we had arranged for a special Saturday afternoon demonstration, a deputation of Publicans complained beforehand to the Captain of the Police that our meetings were interfering with their legitimate trade. He heard their complaints and promised to send officers to watch the meeting, prevent any disturbance, and take in charge all offenders, but declined to prohibit the meetings till he received their reports. The Captain, a pious Wesleyan, who was in full sympathy with us and our work, informed me of the complaints made and intimated that his men would be present, but I was just to conduct the meeting as usual, and he would guarantee that strict justice would be done. The Publicans, having announced amongst their sympathisers that the Police were to break up and prevent our meeting and take the conductors in charge, a very large crowd assembled, both friendly and unfriendly, for the Publicans and their hangers-on were there ” to see the fun,” and to help in baiting the Missionary. Punctually, I ascended the stone stair, accompanied by another Missionary who war also to deliver an address, and announced our opening hymn. As we sang, a company of Police appeared, and were quietly located here and there among the crowd, the Serjeant himself taking his post close by the platform, whence the whole assembly could be scanned. Our enemies were jubilant, and signals were passed betwixt them and their friends, as if the time had come to provoke a row. Before the hymn was finished, Captain Baker himself, to the infinite surprise of friend and foe alike, joined us on the platform, devoutly listened to all that was said, and waited till the close. The Publicans could not for very shame leave, while he was there at their suggestion and request, though they had wit enough to perceive that his presence had frustrated all their sinister plans. They had to heat our addresses and prayers and hymns ; they had to listen to the intimation of our future meetings. When all had quietly dispersed, the Captain warmly congratulated us on our large and well-conducted congregation, and hoped that great good would result from our efforts. This opposition, also, the Lord overruled to increase our influence, and to give point and publicity to our assaults upon the kingdom of Satan. Though disappointed thus, some of the Publicans resolved to have revenge. On the following Saturday evening, when a large meeting was being addressed in our Green Street Church, which had to be entered by a great iron gateway, a spirit merchant ran his van in front of the gate, so that the people could not leave the Church without its removal. Hearing this, I sent two of my young men to draw it aside and clear the way. The Publican, watching near by in league with two policemen, pounced upon the young men whenever they seized the shafts, and gave them in charge for removing his property. On hearing that the young men were being marched to the Police Office, I ran after them and asked what was their offence ? They replied that they were prisoners for injuring the spirit merchant’s property; and the officers tartly informed me that if I further interfered I would be taken too. I replied, that as the young men only did what was necessary, and at my request, I would go with them to the Office. The cry now went through the street, that the Publicans were sending the Missionary and his young men to the Police Office, and a huge mob rushed together to rescue us; but I earnestly entreated them not to raise disturbance, but allow us quietly to pass on. At the Office, it appeared as if the lieutenant on duty and the men under him were all in sympathy with the Publicans. He took down in writing all their allegations, but would not listen to us. At this stage a handsomely dressed and dignified gentleman came forward and said,—
” What bail is required ?”
A few sharp words passed ; another, and apparently higher, officer entered, and took part in the colloquy. I could only hear’ the gentleman protest, in authoritative tones, the policemen having been quietly asked some questions.—
“I know this whole case, I will expose it to the bottom ; expect me here to stand by the Missionary and these young men on Monday morning.”
Before I could collect my wits to thank him, and before I quite understood what was going on, he had disappeared; and the superior officer turned to us and intimated in a very respectful manner that the charge had been withdrawn, and that I and my friends were at liberty. I never found out exactly who the gentleman was that befriended us; but from the manner in which he asserted himself and was listened to, I saw that he was well known in official quarters. From that day our work progressed without further open opposition, and many who had been slaves of intemperance were not only reformed, but became fervent workers in the Total Abstinence cause.
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