Throughout all these years of struggle, however, the Converts were being drilled and fitted for the further extension of the Work.
The idea of forming them into a really permanent Organisation only came to their Leader gradually. He says:—
“My first thought was to
constitute an evangelistic agency, the
Converts going to the Churches. But to this there were three main
i. They would not go
where they were sent.
ii. They were not wanted when they did go.
iii. I soon found that I wanted them myself.”
And the more time he spent amongst them the more the sense of responsibility with regard to them grew upon him. He had discovered what mines of unimagined power for good were to be found amidst the very classes who seemed entirely severed from religious life. There they were, and if only proper machinery could be provided and kept going they could be raised from their present useless, if not pernicious, life to that career of usefulness to others like themselves for which they were so well qualified. They could thus become a treasure of priceless value to their country and to the world.
On the other hand, neglected, or left with no other sort of worship than as yet existed to appeal to them, they must needs become worse and worse, more and more hostile to religion of any kind, more and more unlikely ever to take an interest in anything eternal.
The General could not, therefore, but feel more and more satisfied that he had begun a work that ought to be permanently maintained and enlarged, as opportunity might arise, until it could cope with this state of things wherever it was to be found.
And now that he had at length a centre to which he could invite all his helpers from time to time, there was no hindrance to the carrying out of such a purpose.
With the establishment of a Headquarters that cost L3,500, in one of the main thoroughfares of Eastern London, we may look upon The General as having at last got a footing in the world.
What a place for a Christian Mission centre was Whitechapel Road!
“Just look here,” said The General to his eldest son, then a boy of thirteen, as he led him late one Sunday evening through the great swing-doors of a public-house into the crowded bar. “These are the people I want you to live and labour for.”
The mere appearance of many a thousand in the neighbourhood, whether inside or outside such houses, was enough to give some idea of the misery of their lives. The language and the laughter with which those ragged, dirty, unkempt men and women accompanied their drinking were such as to leave no doubt that they were wallowing in the mire. At that time, and, indeed, until the Children Act of 1909 came into force, it was the custom of thousands of mothers to take their babies and little children into the public-houses with them, so that the scenes of family misery and ruin were complete.