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Happily the field, abandoned as it is to the reign of depravity, is not so entirely bare of good results as it may appear to litterateurs, who are constantly on the look out for piquant wares. As shown in a former article, large numbers are being drawn from these dark haunts by the force of Christianity, and translated into the light of the kingdom of God. Said one such, "I never observed till lately that the more brightly the sun shines, the more clearly I see my own shadow; so, the more I see of Christ's glorious grace, I am the more sensible of my own depravity."
According to the testimony of their own diaries, the city missionaries of Edinburgh lead no easier life than do their brethren in London; and a rough experience affords them many opportunities of seeing human life in its most striking phases. In one unlighted pestiferous hovel, into which the rats from a neighbouring sewer entered at pleasure, a husband, wife, and two children were discovered. They appeared to be in the very valley of the shadow of death, and only by being removed and cared for were they saved from an impending horrible fate. In another room are seen children growing up in blank ignorance of everything save sin-young things who are not allowed to attend school because their earnings would be sacrificed by their so doing. Others are come upon who labour under crushing burdens of debt. They are unthrifty victims of what the English call the Tally system; and such is sometimes their distress that they will occasionally make a new purchase on credit, pawn the goods, and, with the proceeds, pay off a pressing instalment of an old score! Thus one imprudence begets another, and the people are continually weaving for themselves new meshes of difficulty. Then here burrows a disciple of the supposed obsolete opinions of Tom Paine, while another room shelters a slave of betting. In another place are found subjects of misfortune, neighbouring with companions who are paying the penalties of open sin or of secret backsliding. The visitors maintain perseveringly a weary conflict with sin in its worst forms, enjoying now and then a token of victory. Sometimes a recognition of benefit received comes spontaneously from the people themselves, as when the police-force presented their religious instructor with a gold watch and his wife with a brooch.
Not seldom do the visitors embrace opportunities of acting the Good Samaritan among the victims of misfortune, or of transgression, who abound. A cabman and his family, reduced to the abject misery of extreme want, were found occupying a loathsome cellar, damp, dark, fireless, and unventilated! A mother and two children, huddled together on a meagre bed, and did so of necessity from want of clothes in which to appear abroad. To add to the distress, the woman was on the verge of maternity. To speak to such unfortunates about faith in Christ, or even about common morality, without immediately providing temporal relief, would at least be wasting moral force by shooting beside the mark. The family had passed into that condition of helplessness in which they could not help themselves. They needed everything which the feeling Christian heart could supply-lodging, fire, clothing, food, and medical skill. These were at once supplied, and then, when removed from the putrid air and blank starvation of the habitation where death had threatened them, the poor people's hearts were opened
to receive the word of Him who ever sympathised with the sufferings of afflicted humanity.
The everyday efforts of the missionaries are admirably supplemented by the Bible-women. These active and successful workers may often be enabled to speak an effective word when a man would fail. The most degraded and indifferent will commonly pay some sort of homage to the woman who ventures into their presence with no other defence or warrant than the word of God. Who has not been gratified by the exploits of this class, working as they do so meekly and unostentatiously in the dark recesses of great cities? Everywhere the devoted Bible-woman must be blessed, and the following has been given as illustrative of what she may do in an Edinburgh wynd:
"One of the Edinburgh Bible-women found in her district troops of wild Arabs, shrewd, sharp, and uncared for-the pests of every stair and dungeonlike passage; but she had a notion of her own of turning their mischievous activity to account, and making them care for themselves, and she put it into practice. She knew,' she said, 'that if she tried to get these boys around her in an evening to listen to the Bible, they would only mock and flyte her, so she just went another way to work.' As she met them by twos and threes, lurking on the stairs, she said, Boys! how ragged your coats are. I am going to open a sewing-class. Who'll come? I'll give you patches, and teach you to mend your clothes, and perhaps how to make new ones, and it will only be open one night in the week. Their answers showed that they thought this might do. The night was fixed, and six or seven boys dropped into her room. She lent but two needles and thimbles that night to the two handiest of the group, and when she had taught them to stitch, they taught the rest. Then she went to the drapers, and tailors, and begged odds and ends of cloth-often mere fragments-ends of webs and remnants, and she had a gift of some blue stripe shirting, and presently these wild, uncared for, but clever lads, who had never used a needle before, became not only apt in button-sewing, which is in itself a treasure of independence to many a future man, but arrived at expert manufacture of caps, jackets, vests, and trousers, and even shirts. But this Biblewoman's work had not fully ended with clothing the ragged, and occupying the idle. She made the new clothes serve a purpose, and get each of her new scholars a place. The employers of labour had often refused them as ragged, but would let theme arn their three shillings a week as clothed. This good teacher asked no payment for her teaching, and no payment for the garments they made, but that they should get into employment and keep in it; and as the City Mission Report records this effort of hers in 1863, she must have continued it six years, and saved how many from ruin! for we found her at the same work-and at higher work, too. The boys had been so pleased with one night's teaching a week that she offered them a second evening, and the room was always full; and then she thought she would give them a third night, but that, she said, 'should be Sabbath evening, and, then, boys, we'll have no needles! but you shall hear such beautiful stories as you never heard before.' So out of that third meeting came a Bible-class, and at that class there are so many boys, says the Report, 'that only those who come early, and have the worst possible homes of their own, can be admitted. The qualification for getting into this class has been, that the party should not at the time be connected with any other school-it was meant to meet the wants of the uncared for, or if he were an orphan, or the child of drunken parents, he might come. It is not a school for little ones, but for those boys who, having left school, are unemployed and about the streets. Of course her pupils feel as if she were a mother to them, and come to her in their difficulties. One she had before helped and clothed, got out of work, she told us, and was starving. He watched others go home to their dinners, and could only whistle and turn away from the food shops; still he did not steal.
He went to his old friend, and she let him mend himself up again, and he confessed in her ear that he had 'nought to eat, would she lend him two shillings?' He would soon pay her when he was clothed, for he could earn three when decent. She would not lend money, but she lent credit. She gave him an order on the grocer's for two shillings' worth of provisions, which sum he faithfully repaid-a herring being his only luxury till his debt was discharged.”
It is acknowledged by all that nothing tends more rapidly towards moral and physical ruin than the habit of spirit drinking among the people. In Edinburgh the missionaries must ever be perseveringly disputing the territory with King Alcohol. In one room the visitor finds an intoxicated woman raving violently, but as that is her natural state it excites no surprise. Near at hand is another woman, who. having been a drunkard during her best days, is at last reaping a full harvest of the bitter fruits of her folly. She is despised by her children, and her son-in self-protection probably-has even felled his mother to the ground! Here is a woman dying in misery from the effects of intemperance; and there is the pitiable helpless wife of a man who, earning thirty shillings a week, and yet spends the total on whisky. Such minor examples might be quoted until the page became painfully monotonous. Not unfrequently, however, do the inebriates find themselves checked by calamity or by divine interposition. One woman, who in her better moments contracted the habit of attending the missionary's meeting, like many others of her weak sisters of the wynds, became addicted to intemperance. In this last respect she was of the same mind as her husband. All the cash which they could either earn or command went direct to the spirit shop. Their appetite for fiery stimulants was insatiable, and for the sake of ministering to their propensities they sacrificed comfort, honour, and all that makes life worth having. In course of time the couple sank into the deepest misery and helpless degradation. While in this condition, the woman lay one night meditating on her infatuation, and unable any longer to endure the torture of an accusing conscience, she rose from the bed, and opening a drawer, put forth her hand to reach a knife, intending to commit suicide! But what was that she held in her hand? In her frenzy she clutched not a knife, but a Bible! She stood there in the silent night condemned and repentant! Her right mind was restored, and she prayed earnestly for pardon. That noctural adventure marked a blessed turning-point in her life. "God has helped me," said the late drunkard, “I have not touched drink since, and I am determined never to touch it."
At times even a tragic interest is attached to certain cases coming under notice. An artisan of the city, a man in receipt of liberal wages, yielded to the common vicious indulgence. Home was of course neglected; comfort was unknown, and the children wandered about wild and ragged, since their father spent his earnings at the spirit shop. The consequences of this folly were soon apparent. Credit ceased, debts accumulated, and unable longer even to pay his rent when due, the man's goods were seized by the landlord. The poor inebriate watched the brokers remove the household furniture in troubled excitement, and this appears to have occasioned a kind of fit, for ten minutes after the clearance of the room was effected, he fell to the floor, a corpse!
The wife, who had shared her husband's weaknesses, on realising what had occurred, was stricken with horror, and throwing herself on the dead body, was heard crying piteously for mercy!
Nine-tenths of the misery, poverty, and vice existing in Edinburgh are said by the missionaries to be traceable to whisky. In many instances forcible restraint would seem to be the only cure, e.g. :—“ I found him in bed, over him a few clothes and a bit of carpet," says our visitor, speaking of a far-gone victim; "his wife was sitting disconsolate by the fire. He told me at length of his doings. From the New Year till a fortnight ago he had been sober. Then, in his gladness at being able to pay his debts and furnish somewhat his house, he bought a half-pint of ale, then a half-gill of whisky, and unable to stop there, he drank all that week. This week, as during the last, he resolved to stop, but could not. He strove against it, he prayed to be strengthened to withstand it, but the craving was irresistible; and so he had wrought and drunk by turns the whole week. He said the sense of the degradation of mind and body to which he had brought himself was unbearable; he fancied it a foretaste of the misery of the damned. He said he wondered not at men, in that frame of mind, thinking of committing suicide. He himself would do anything, go anywhere, to be hid from himself. He said he had read Professor Miller on intemperance, but even he fell short of describing its full misery."
Death from over-drinking is rather a frequent occurrence in Edinburgh. The last example was one of darkness and terror; there are others in which, though physical ruin may ensue, light peeps in at the last, to show that none need despair. All acquainted with Scottish life know that the new year ushers in a season of almost universal intemperance among the lower orders, and the Edinburgh High-street, at such times presents a scene at once humiliating and disgraceful. There lived a woman who, during the usual holiday time, rigidly observed the too common custom of drinking deeply. She left her room to fetch a fresh supply of whisky, and wishing not to be heard, she walked into the street without any shoes. Returning intoxicated, she lay before the fire with the snow clinging about her feet, and on awaking in the morning with a cold shiver, she knew that a death-chill had been taken. She was soon in her last illness, but happily the missionary of the district was the means of bringing her to repentance. "I feel ashamed and humbled at my past life," was her own confession, "and yet I cannot sufficiently bless God that this illness came, and that you have visited When I became ill my mind was dark and ignorant. You have shown me the way of salvation, and God has inclined my heart to himself. If I had continued well, I might have gone on in sin, and died a prodigal and cast-a-way. I love my husband and daughter, but I have cast them both upon God. I am done with the world, and Christ is to me everything Is it not a triumph of grace to see me a pardoned sinner? Truly, Jesus can save to the uttermost when I, one of the vilest and most hardened sinners, have received mercy. I weep tears of joy! I praise God continually for his adorable grace. I can say, for me to live is Christ, and to die is gain."
But happy endings to vicious lives are not so frequent that any
may count upon them. The demon whisky keeps his votaries in too willing subjection. The missionaries even suffer considerably from the violence of drunken opponents, in this respect being worse off than their brethren in London. The recent journal of one visitor tells us that:
"In one stair there are sixteen families, six of which are notoriously drunken and vicious. A detailed account of these six would be horrifying. In language and life they are as vile as the vilest heathen. Visiting among them from house to house, the missionary came to one door which stood ajar. Gently knocking, he went in and found the mistress and a neighbour, both of whom took seats as he entered. Possessing himself of the one remaining chair, he started a conversation. He had scarcely done so when he noticed that the mistress of the house was intoxicated. After a little she got violent, on which he rose and made for the door. She followed him with curses. Walking quietly along the passage he sought refuge from her fury in an adjoining house. But the woman to whom he made his appeal, refused him admission. She also was a drunkard, though at that time sober. Still closely pressed by the blasphemer, who never intermitted her oaths, he succeeded in getting safely out of the place. All these unhappy inebriates hate the missionary. He has often to refuse them lines of recommendation. He has often to defeat their attempts to impose on the benevolent. They know this, and when they are drunk, they pour on his head without restraint, the most horrible maledictions. This same woman's husband died recently. His pension falling due the day before his death, she and her cronies left her husband alone, and set off with the money for a debauch. A neighbour who has six children to look after, and who had suffered severely from this man and wife, hearing that he was alone, went to his bedside and with the Bible in one hand, and a cup of cold water in the other, ministered to him till he died. To another couple who had also grievously calumniated her because of her religion, this good Samaritan had been equally attentive. The man was dying, and the woman with whom he lived, but who was not his wife, was lying up stairs helplessly drunk. Their Christian neighbour went to him too, and tried to teach him the way of salvation until his eyes closed in death. She has sought in every way to win and save his paramour. She has sheltered her repeatedly from her abandoned companions. She has brought her several times to the meeting, though as yet to no purpose. The wretched creature will not keep sober."
Still more disheartening even than the opposition of the openly vicious, is the shock when the evangelist finds himself in the presence of that lower degradation of professing Christians who have brought dishonour on their profession by lapsing first into worldly-mindedness, and then sinking down into flagrant sensuality. Such characters, alas! are common to all great cities. There are persons of another class in Edinburgh, however, who seem to be as common in Scotland as in England; we refer to church members who do not understand and never have understood the nature of Christianity, e. g., "Godless church members are frequently met with, and they do much harm.
was a communicant. He had been a betting, drinking fellow, who left the support of his family to his wife, who sells groceries and