GOSPEL TEMPERANCE UNION.
MRS LEAVITT’S MISSION. The forces of total abstinence are very busy in Christchurch just now. The echo of the fervid, but somewhat American, eloquence of Mr R. T. Booth, the head and front of the Blue Ribbon Movement, has scarcely died away, when another representative of the “ Glorious Republic ” makes an attack on the enemy in an entirely different quarter. Mrs Leavitt, the' delegate of the Women’s Temperance Union of America, opened her campaign last night at the Theatre Royal, which was crowded in a manner that would have delighted the heart of the “ urbane/ and gentlemanly manager ” of, let us say, the “ Silver King ” company. That is, of course, if everybody had paid for admission, which they had not. Judging from appearances, many of them were not habitual theatre-goers by any means. The great majority of the audience were seemingly those good, respectable folk who form the bulk of the attendance at all Temperance meetings. The fair sex were slightly the more numerous. A plentiful sprinkling cf blue ribbons was noticeable, and here and there was to be observed the peculiar bonnet of the /‘Hallelujah Lass.” In the orchestra was a table loaded with the appliances for decorating those desirous of “donning the blue,” while the stage was occupied by a numerous choir, under the leadership of Mr Corrick. Punctually at 8 o’clock, the choir struck up a hymn, in the; course of which the Chairman, Mr P. W. Isitt, made his appearance on the stage, followed by several ladies and gentleman, among* the former being the speaker of the evening, Mrs Leavitt. The hymn having been finished, another, from Sankey*s collection, was sung. A chapter of Scripture was then read by the Rev J, Hoatson, and the Rev C. DaUaston offered a short prayer. A third hymn followed, and the Chairman made his “ introductory remarks.” After welcoming Mrs Leavitt in the name of a large gathering of representatives of various branches of the Christian Church, he expressed a belief that her work would be blessed with great results, stating his conviction that “ the smooth word of a passing stranger,” which had been alluded to by a Christchurch editor, would be the means of doing much good, because the “ passing stranger ” preached the Gospel of Christ. He then announced the dates of the various meetings of the mission, concluding by stating that Mr Booth had consented to deliver another lecture here on June 1, a piece of news which was greeted by a clatter of applause. A reference to “ necessary expenses,” &c., introduced the inevitable collection, which was made to the accompaniment of a couple of hymns. With a request for order, and the courtesy due to a lady, the Chairman introduced Mrs Leavitt—an elderly, grey-haired lady, of middle height, having somewhat of an air of what is usually styled “ command,” with features strongly marked —a rather ascetic ” face, in fact, with keen piercing eyes; a countenance impassive in repose, but capable of lighting up with enthusiasm, or relaxing into tenderness, as the speaker proceeds with her subject. A slight “ American ” accent, which is noticeable at the beginning of Mrs Leavitt’s address, becomes less marked as the discourse goes on. She is a fluent speaker, earnest and impressive, yet quiet —almost subdued in manner. Her anecdotes aie comparatively few, but well to the point, and well told. She has no difficulty in getting the attention of her hearers, and once got it is retained. The expression of faces of the female portion of the audience especially show how powerfully they are affected by some of the speaker’s “ home thrusts.” She shows little vivacity, and only once, towards the end of her remarks, does she manifest any tendency to humour. She evidently has a sufficient appreciation of the fitness ol things to see that in a sermon, such as her discourse last night certainly was, any-' thing calculated to raise a laugh would be somewhat out of place. Mrs Leavitt began by giving out a text, I. Corinthians, vi., 19-20, “Ye are not your own, for ye are bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body and your spirit, which are God’s.” The address was in the main an appeal to the moderate drinkers, who, the speaker asserted, had no right to drink even the little they did. Man, she contended, was God’s, on account of tuition, of preservation, and of redemption, and the body must be kept subordinate to the spiritual nature, though not by foolish asceticism. God intended man to enjoy his life, and in His Word pointed out the true way of doing so. The use of intoxicating drink, so far from enhancing real enjoyment, prevented it by causing numberless ills, and shortening life. Statistics were quoted in support of this assertion, showing that the average duration of the life of a total abstainer might be reckoned as 62 years, while that of a drinker was only something over 35 years. Eighty thousand people in the United States, and one hundred thousand in England, came annually to premature graves through drink. The number of similar deaths in New Zealand must be considerable, since the amount spent in strong drink in the Colony, according to statistics compiled by Mr J. W. Jago, was £5 12s per head of the population in 1883—a larger sum than the average for the United States. The leeturess then assailed the idea that strong drink was beneficial in cases of illness, hardship, &c.—an idea which, she remarked, showed that mankind was very, very gullible. The fact of the matter was, she contended, that people took the liquor because they liked it, and made use of the excuse that it did them good. With considerable power she described the gradual mastery which the appetite of the drinker was liable to gain over his will, until at last the latter was overcome, and the man became a drunkard. The words of Gough were, she thought, applicable to" all cases: “ If you care so little about it that it is no trouble to leave off drinking, do it for the sake of your influence on others. If it is a trouble to leave it off, you are in danger, and it is time to do it for your own sake.” The example of the moderate drinker had proved fatal to many a one who was not so strong-willed or so favourably circumstanced as himself. It was essential to the welfare of. the nation that its people should abandon strong drink, since no nation could maintain its superiority if its manhood was sapped by so insidious a foe as intemperance. Mrs Leavitt concluded with an appeal to all who had not signed the pledge to do so, and to all abstainers who had not put on the blue ribbon to let iff blossom out at on ce. With a smile, that was almost pathetic, she asked the audience not to let her go/ away with the feeling that it was because she was a woman, and not a man that the people would ,not come forward and sign the pledge. There wertf still, she remarked, a great many persons who drank
in Christchurch, for the public-houses were not closed, and to starve them out for want of customers would be the best way to prohibit the drink traffic. Several people then came forward to sign the pledge or “don the blue,” but the numbers, were by no means large—l 3 pledges and 20 ribbons being the total. The fact that a large proportion of those .present already wore the badge of abstinence, and that the arrangements of the building were not convenient for people to make their way to the front, perhaps accounted for this.
To-night Mrs Leavitt will lecture in St John’s schoolroom.
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GOSPEL TEMPERANCE UNION., Lyttelton Times, Volume LXIII, Issue 7547, 11 May 1885
GOSPEL TEMPERANCE UNION. Lyttelton Times, Volume LXIII, Issue 7547, 11 May 1885
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