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Darling Memorial Sketch Book
Gospel-Temperance


But Mr Darling's zeal in the cause of Gospel-temperance refused to be restricted in its action within the boundaries of Edinburgh. Carrying out the spirit of the Mission which he represented, in villages and little provincial towns, within easy reach of the capital, he held evening meetings, to which the people were usually summoned by "posters" on the walls. Knowing well, however, that this mode of advertising would not be sufficient of itself to secure an audience from the midst of a hitherto un-awakened people, it was his custom to arrive in the town or village early on the afternoon of the day of meeting, and by a rapid canvass to do his utmost to make his meeting "a success." For such extemporised gatherings especially, a harmonium was an important auxiliary in attracting people, and generally he succeeded, by importunity and tact, in obtaining the use of one from some friendly family of good social position in the little community. But the question often arose, How was it to be conveyed to the desired place? It was not uncommon to see the earnest man, dispensing for the time with his dignity, taking his full share, along with two or three strong youths who had volunteered their services for the occasion, in bearing along the instrument to the hall or schoolroom in which the meeting was to be held. A large audience usually compensated him tenfold for all his toil and trouble. But in fact he lost no opportunity in promoting his mission. Instances have been known in which through conversation on the top of a tram-car, or while standing beneath an open shed for protection from a shower, he won disciples. "Instant in season, out of season."

It has been affirmed that Mr Darling was the first man in Scotland who wore the Blue-ribbon temperance badge; and in the story we are about to quote, the use by him of this badge proved to be no insignificant factor in connection with the "saving of a soul from death." A sailor who belonged to a vessel that traded between Leith and the Continent, and who for many years had been the slave of intemperance, was present by the invitation of a friend at a Gospel-temperance meeting in Oueensferry, in the month of June 1882. He was much struck by the solo singing of one young lady, and not only by the music, but yet more by the Christian truth and religious sentiment of which the song was the vehicle. For still, as holy Herbert had said long before—

"A verse may find him who a sermon flies,
And turn delight into a sacrifice."

On that night the sailor, along with many others, put on the blue ribbon, with the honest intention of keeping the pledge of total abstinence which the wearing of it implied. We shall leave him to tell the remaining part of the story in his own words:—

"Coming into Leith one evening, I heard with sorrow of the serious illness of a dear sister resident there, one who had never encouraged me in my drunken orgies. Next morning I stood at her deathbed, and saw her pass quietly but insensibly away. I was stunned at the unexpected blow, and my old enemy thought the opportunity too good to be lost. 'Take a little to keep up your spirits,' he whispered; but I struggled hard that day. My poor wife begged me not to touch drink, and I promised, but even then I felt I could not struggle much longer with the fearful thirst. I wandered about the streets till I found myself in Leith Street, Edinburgh, hardly-knowing where I was going or what I was doing, dragging my steps past each public-house with difficulty, one thought ever in my mind, that if I tasted drink I should be drunk at that dear sister's funeral. But I could stand it no longer, and at last I stood and reasoned with the tempter, and I yielded just to take one pint of stout to keep me from falling, I felt so weak, and then to go straight home by train, and not come out again that night. But, thank God, while I yet hesitated on the threshold of a public-house in Leith Street, I caught sight of a bit of blue on a gentleman's coat passing the door, and, with a revulsion of feeling. I thought. 'Oh, if that gentleman knew my struggles, he would give me good advice.'

"What an eventful moment that was to me! I hurried down the street after the gentleman, touched him on the shoulder, and, I am not ashamed to confess it, burst into tears.. Urged by his entreaties, I was taken to his house; and as he was on very urgent business himself, he was delighted to find a Christian gentleman in his home, who welcomed me. We were shown into his parlour, where sat the very lady who had sung so sweetly at the Gospel-temperance meeting at Queensferry, who was made the instrument, in the hand of a merciful God, of pointing me to Him who is the poor sinner's Friend, who is able to keep us from falling. Never did words find a more willing hearer. I saw indeed how helpless I was, and realised the sufficiency of our dear Lord to save and keep. I have from that day rejoiced in the liberty wherewith He hath made me free, and only feel too happy in adding my humble testimony to His power, hoping that these simple facts may induce you, and all who may read this, to show their colours everywhere.

"I may mention, in conclusion, that the gentleman I met in the street was Mr Darling, of the Regent Temperance Hotel, Edinburgh; and the lady, his daughter, Miss Thirza Darling; the other gentleman, Mr Armstrong, city missionary,—all of whom, and many more, can tell my simple story."

The subject of the above story is now an energetic and zealous missionary in connection with the Seamen's Christian Friend Society, in Appledore, North Devon. An incident which has come to our knowledge proves that the bravery of the sailor has not diminished in his new life. One day he was conducting a religious service in a Bethel, when he heard the cry of a child drowning. In a moment, having named a hymn for his audience to sing, he rushed to the shore, threw off his outer dress, and dashing into the sea, swam out, and, at great risk to himself, rescued the sinking child, when to onlookers the deliverance seemed hopeless.


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