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Tuesday, 30 December 2014

The Times - 1880

For two years or thereabouts, our towns have had frequent opportunities of witnessing an exhibition not to everybody's taste. The "Salvation Army," as far as it can be known to the uninitiated, consists of 'a band of men and women marching through the Streets, generally towards church time, with banners, devices, and sometimes emblematic helmets, and other accoutrements, singing sensational hymns, and by their gestures inviting all whose eyes they succeeded in catching to fall in and march to the head-quarters or rendezvous of those who are to. be saved. The worship they conduct undercover is not quite of the sober and monotonous character that finds most favor with English respectability. The confident heirs of a newly-assured salvation sing hymn after hymn with emphatic refrains, in, an ascending scale of devotional energy. At intervals exhortations, which are at least simple, intelligible, and frequently reiterated, restore their flagging energies for fresh multitudinous utterances. The sense of numbers amounting to an army, if not on the spot, yet in faith, everywhere present, feeds the strength of the individual.

The devotees are told, very likely with truth, that hundreds of thousands are at the same moment marching towards Zion, scouring her bulwarks, ascending her steeps, and even entering her gates. It is plain that the enthusiasm does not the away when these provocatives are withdrawn. It is plain, too, that the movement has not lost the attractiveness of novelty and youth.
The army is still found on our streets. It is not to be expected that even so much as a good minority of a settled and well-regulated population should take part in such a movement, or like it, or even regard it with indifference. A very large part of our own population on one ground or other, believe themselves saved already, and, therefore, under no need to go out of their way for a new call. A large part are very well satisfied to be in a fortunate minority in this respect, and take an exclusive view of the celestial circle. About the last thing they desire is to meet their neighbors there, especially if they are not clean, or talk broad, or cannot distribute their h's properly.
A large part are quite content not to be saved; indeed, think there is no such thing. If these various classes be added together, they will constitute an immense majority against the Salvation Army. Most of these people, however, are ready to Nave it alone. They will be neither for it nor against it. But there remain the irrepressible roughs. It is unnecessary to describe them, for they promise to be our lords and masters. They are the present tyrant, whose function it is to test the sincerity of the virtuous and the gratitude of the brave. It is with them that the “Salvation Army" is now waging its only physical warfare. English people, generally would leave it to the test of time. The men that stagger out of the public-houses, or that have not yet recovered front their Saturday night's carouse, or that dread sonic possible interference with their own ways, molest the harmless soldiers with insulting cries, mockery, and more serious annoyances. The faith of the majority, the good taste of the educated, and the universal sense of decency are outraged under the pretence of interrupting the exceptional method of a few. But it is evident that if the "roughs" are to be allowed to do what they like, the streets can no longer be called the Queen's highway or the land her realm.
Editor’s note. Well, I guess that’s us told then!

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