Format: Global Grey free PDF, epub, Kindle ebook
Pages (PDF): 149
Publication Date: 1891
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In the cities the overcrowding has become so excessive, and the accomodation available for the poor is so inadequate, costly and squalid, as to almost beggar description. Considerations of decency, comfort and health are largely thrown to the winds. A single unfurnished room, merely divided from the next one by a thin boarding, through which everything can be heard, will command from five to thirty rupees a month, and even more, according to its position, in Bombay.
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The remarkable reception accorded to General Booth's "In Darkest England and the Way Out," makes it hardly necessary for me to apologise for the publication of the following pages, which are intended solely as an introduction to that fascinating book, and in order to point out to Indian readers that if a "cabhorse charter" is both desirable and practicable for England (see page 19, Darkest England) a "bullock charter" is no less urgently needed for India.
In doing this it is true that certain modifications and adaptations in detail will require to be made. But the more carefully I consider the matter, the more convinced do I become, that these will be of an unimportant character and that the gospel of social salvation, which has so electrified all classes in England, can be adopted in this country almost as it stands.
After all, this is no new gospel, but simply a resurrection, or resuscitation, of a too much neglected aspect of the original message of "peace on earth, good will towards men," proclaimed at Bethlehem. It has been the glory of Christianity, that it has in all ages and climes acknowledged the universal brotherhood of man, and sought to relieve the temporal as well as the spiritual needs of the masses. Of late years that glory has in some degree departed, or at least been tarnished, not because the efforts put forth are less than those in any previous generation, but because the need is so far greater, that what would have been amply sufficient a few centuries ago, is altogether inadequate when compared to the present great necessity.
The very magnitude of the problem has struck despair into the hearts of would-be reformers, many of whom have leapt to the conclusion, that nothing but an entire reconstruction of society could cope with so vast an evil, whilst others have been satisfied with simply putting off the reckoning day and suppressing the simmering volcano on the edge of which, they dwelt with paper edicts which its first fierce eruption is destined to consume.
Surely the present plan if at all feasible, is God-inspired, and if God-inspired, it will be certainly feasible. And surely of all countries under the face of the sun there is none which more urgently needs the proclamation of some such Gospel of Hope than does India. That it is both needed and feasible I trust that in the following pages I shall be able to abundantly prove.
General Booth has uttered a trumpet-call, the echoes of which will be reverberated through the entire world. The destitute masses, whom he has in his book so vividly pourtrayed, are everywhere to be found. And I believe I speak truly when I say that in no country is their existence more palpable, their number more numerous, their misery more aggravated, their situation more critical, desperate and devoid of any gleam of hope to relieve their darkness of despair, than in India.
And yet perhaps in no country is there so promising a sphere for the inauguration of General Booth's plan of campaign. Religious by instinct, obedient to discipline, skilled in handicrafts, inured to hardship, and accustomed to support life on the scantiest conceivable pittance, we cannot imagine a more fitting object for our pity, nor a more encouraging one for our effort, than the members of India's "submerged tenth."
Leaving to the care of existing agencies those whose bodies are diseased, General Booth's scheme seeks to fling the mantle of brotherhood around the morally sick, the destitute and the despairing. It seeks to throw the bridge of love and hope across the growing bottomless abyss in which are struggling twenty-six millions of our fellow men, whose sin is their misfortune and whose poverty is their crime, who are graphically said to have been "damned into the world, rather than born into it." The question is a national one. This is no time therefore for party or sectarian feeling to be allowed to influence our minds. True for ourselves we still believe as fully as ever that the salvation of Jesus Christ is the one great panacea for all the sins and miseries of mankind.
True we are still convinced that to merely improve a man's circumstances without changing the man himself will be largely labor spent in vain. True we believe in a hell and in a Heaven, and that it is our ultimate object to save each individual whom we can influence out of the one into the other. True that among the readers of the following pages will be those whose religious creed differs from our's as widely as does the North Pole from the South.
But about these matters let us agree for the present to differ. Let us unite with hand and heart to launch forthwith the social life boat, and let us commit it to the waves, which are every moment engulfing the human wrecks with which our shores are lined. When the tempest has ceased to rage, and when the last dripping mariner has been safely landed we can, if we wish, with a peaceful conscience dissolve our partnership and renew the discussion of the minor differences, which divide, distract and weaken the human race, but not till then.