The magistrates having allowed the tent to remain on the Green during the month of July, the committee are making the most of their opportunity. They agreed to have at least four meetings every Sabbath -one at 9 A.M., for the homeless who sleep on the green sward or wander about the streets all night; another at 12:00 noon, for those who go to no place of worship, a third at 2:30 pm for the children; and lastly, the evening meeting at 6.30. The meetings at 9 and 12 are conducted by the young men from Ewing Place; the afternoon meeting by the directors of the Sabbath-School Union and Foundry Boys' Society; the
evening meeting by a committee of east-end ministers.
Breakfast Meeting in the Tent.
In a friendly notice of the work in the Daily Mail suggested that a breakfast should be provided for those who might be induced to come to the morning meeting. The young men resolved to carry out the suggestion. We cannot expect those who have no breakfast, and what is worse, no prospect of getting any, to be very susceptible to gospel influences. Then our Master has told us to feed the hungry, and Himself had compassion on the multitudes who came to hear Him and supplied their temporal wants. It will interest you to know how the money was got. When it was resolved to go forward, one young man offered to give £5 as a thank offering for much blessing received at this time. A gentleman interested in the work said, "If the young men do the work, I shall find the money. To make matters more complicated, a lady sent in 5s., a girl came with a sixpence rolled carefully in a piece of paper, the young men in one of our large warehouses sent in £2 9s and at one of the young converts' meetings a gentleman handed in a guinea, another 10s. As all this was entirely unsolicited, and as it had been distinctly announced from the first that the funds were already secure, we were all the more gratified at the readiness to give, and it was resolved to afford an outlet for such abounding liberality at the young converts' meeting. The result was, that on the first night the treasurer received in all about £10. The committee intended to provide for 150, but they acepted this liberality of the Lord's stewards as an indication that He meant them to take a bolder step, and at once resolved to provide for 300, and continue the breakfasts every Sabbath morning while the tent is on the Green.
After completing our arrangements, we were not a little anxious lest we might not find guests. We knew that many, indeed many more than most people imagine, spend their nights in the open air; but we were afraid that we had gone beyond the mark. Sabbath morning dawned beautifully, it was calm and genial. As we hurried to the tent a little after 6 A.M., we could not help thinking, if we do not find them lying out this morning, we shall never find them. Our courage rose, and we looked up to our heavenly Father to guide us aright in seeking the needy ones, and to bless this effort.
Our instructions were to invite the first poor, hungry-looking persons we met, whether male or female, old or young and if possible, to bring them with us. We soon met one who seemed to answer the above description. He had apparently been lying about some close all night and was looking rather dejected. After salutations, we invited him to come and share breakfast with us in the tent. We found we had got the wrong man; he was not far enough down. In truth, we discovered that,
in spite of Forbes M 'Kenzie, he had managed to get a fresh supply of whisky even at that early hour. He said he had heard of our "move," and would like to know if Mr Baird had any hand in the matter. We were unsuccessful with him and were rather discouraged that our first attempt was a failure. To our dismay, when we came in sight of the Green, we found that few
indeed were lying about. On consulting the policeman, he informed us that he had seldom seen the Green so free of people on a Sabbath morning. The reason he gave was, that it had been so very wet on Saturday night, that those who used to come must have sheltered themselves in closes, etc. As we passed the "Jail," we found a few standing at the door, as if newly out, and not knowing very well what to do with themselves. They had likely been among the 'incapables' of the previous evening. They had got no breakfast and were evidently glad to hear of one, although they pretended to be indifferent. A little further along we saw a woman lying on the steps at the Jail door, evidently sound asleep; as the tea could not be ready for an hour or two, we left her to enjoy a nap, resolving to rouse her at breakfast time. On reaching the tent we found a number of our friends already assembled, and getting things ready with all possible speed. Still, the people were not appearing. We tried a hymn; "Hold the fort" was sung with considerable spirit, but our friends who were lying about refused to be caught with this bait; they evidently thought that it was only the gospel, and for this they cared little. We therefore resolved to scatter all over the Green and scour the Saltmarket, Bridgegate, High Street, etc. The ladies who had kindly agreed to help in this work for the Master went out in pairs, the young men singly.
The receptions met were very varied. Some laughed, and could hardly be persuaded that the good news was true; others, with more faith, and it may be a deeper sense of need, "made tracks" for the tent with all speed; one, inclined to be jocular, asked if we had a little whisky, as he felt rather dry. Some said, "That is just what we need," or "I am sure you could not have come at a better time," and were profuse with their thanks; others met us with oaths and curses. One young man we got the length of the tent was accosted by the policemen who said, "You should go in, Tom, and hope it will do you good. Tom at once stood on his dignity and refused to go one step further. To our question, "What's the matter?" "Matter!" he says, "Why, he is insulting me. What right has he to say that he hopes I will do better?" He was moving off in a rage, when a friend remarked, "Now it's only a misunderstanding; I think you should come in." Tom did so. We felt convinced that nothing but an empty stomach, an equally empty purse, and prospects the very darkest could have induced a gentleman of his temper to go in that morning. We were informed by the policeman that he was one of a gang of thoroughly abandoned young thieves.
The Scene Inside
Nothing could be more touching than the scene inside. By about 8.30 we had close on 300 gathered. Such wrecks! There were a few children and a few very old people, but the majority were men and women in their prime. What an assemblage of rags and filth, blue eyes, broken faces - all stamped in some way as living a life of sin! We had plenty of hymn singing to keep those who were early forward from wearying. Scarcely one joined in the song. They seemed to have no heart for it. Despair was written on many faces. Some were utterly stolid; they had all the while a vacant look as if they could not comprehend where they were, and why they were gathered together. One young man fell from his seat in a fainting fit. Some who seemed to know him rushed forward. laid him on his back, and began to rub his hands. They soon brought him round a little. Very likely he fainted through sheer exhaustion for want of food. The meeting was remarkably orderly. All were quiet and remained during the whole of the service. After we had breakfast over (which consisted of meat-sandwiches and tea), and some more hymns, two or the young men gave very short addresses. We were anxious not to make them think that we had
merely brought them there that we might preach to them. The service was thrown as much as possible into the form of family worship, and the meeting spoken of as a family gathering. Jesus was set before them as the Good Shepherd, who gave His life for the sheep, came to seek the lost, provides for all our wants and guides us safe home to the Father's house. Many were in tears. Strong men buried their faces in their hands, and could not look up. The mention of family worship and the love of Jesus, we doubt not, recalled to many the better, brighter, and happier days of the past. One young woman, rather better dressed than the others, we noticed struggling with emotion; by and by tears began to trickle down her cheeks; she had no handkerchief; she took the ends of a small silk scarf, and with that sat wiping her eyes.
We did not prolong the meeting. At the close many waited for conversation. Some were deeply and genuinely anxious for salvation. Others, specially women, asked if we could find them a home, that they might leave a life of sin. There were no happy faces among these three hundred; everyone seemed sad and weary at heart. Let us hope that many said that morning, "I will arise and go to my Father." We were very much encouraged by our success. We invited all to take advantage of the "Tent" meetings and promised to have another breakfast next Sabbath morning. As it is the "Fair ' Sabbath, when so many give themselves up to drunkenness, we have resolved to provide for 400.
The other meetings in the tent were very fruitful. Good work was done at noon. Also in the afternoon and in the evening we had quite a harvest. The tent was very crowded. Many came only for a time, then went away. All agree that between four and five thousand heard the gospel in the tent that evening. Short addresses, every word of which seemed to tell, were given by Rev. Dr Hutton of St. Silas' Episcopal Church, Rev. A. Keay of Trinity Free Church, and by Messrs. George M 'Farlane and James Scott. At the close, upwards of 100 remained for conversation, and 49 professed to have accepted Christ. We were pleased to see many children among the seeking ones, showing that afternoon effort in their behalf is receiving the blessing of the Master. Altogether, Sabbath was a great day with us. In the young men's evangelistic meeting in Ewing Place we had a crowded church. After a stirring and powerful address by Dr Wallace, about twenty remained for conversation, a number professing to see the way of life. It seemed as if old times were back again. May He do yet greater things for His own name's
"Times of Blessing," July 23rd, 1874.