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General Booth and the Salvation Army online

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fact should be sounded from the house-tops, for greater
honour belongs to the organisation for accomplishing
what it has with inferior numbers. If the membership
is great, then both the Christian and the non-Christian
world ought to be in possession of the fact, so that the
full significance of the attainment may be duly acknow-

But should not the number be not only stated, but
analysed by the Army ? I have never yet met an
officer who appreciated the reasons alleged to be given
by the General for withholding the information.
Officers desire to have it in their possession. If it is
wise policy to inform soldiers of the numerical strength
of their own Corps, is it not conducive to a proper


appreciation of the Army's work that its total roll-call
should be well and adequately advertised ?

Why then, I ask again, is the membership wrapped
up in a cloud of mystery ? There must be some power-
ful reason why the General, in his interviews with
pressmen and in his reviews of the Army from time to
time, evades and talks round this question. Up to the
present I have not been able to discover a reasonable
explanation for the singular silence. One explanation
given is that as the standard of membership in the
Army is higher and more exacting than what is re-
quired from an average Church, the publication of the
total membership of the Army if published would be
attended with serious misapprehension, and therefore
it is not given in the Year Book not at all a very
impressive reason. The Army is not a Church, and is
not judged, praised, or condemned according to
Church standards.

Another reason assigned is that the publication of
the fact might lead the public to a false conclusion as
to the sum- total result of the work of the movement.
The Army's membership, it is asserted, is made up
mainly of workers. The truth, however, is that the
Army authorities are squeamish about announcing the
membership lest, with all their high-sounding state-
ments as to progress, and their repeated declaration of
thousands and hundreds of thousands of converts that
\ have been won to the Army, critics might turn the
difference between the number of converts and soldiers
into ridicule, and thereby show that the Army's re-
vivalism is a gigantic failure.


If, for instance, a critic were to put himself to the
trouble and expense of tabulating the number of con-
verts reported in the War Cries of the world, and then
place the total alongside the number of Salva-
tionists, the net result might show that not five con-
verts out of every hundred became members of the
Army ! That would be a most damaging revelation,
and rather than face such a possible indictment, the
Army has gone on, year after year, playing and parley-
ing with the question. The attitude suggests a limited
sense of the obligation under which the Army lies to
tell the world the actual outcome of their struggles
at making Salvationists. If this fear really explains
the silence of Headquarters as to its membership, then
it is both craven and short-sighted. They have only
to compare their efforts with those of the Churches
to show that the making of members is a perplexing
and disappointing process, and even if the figures re-
veal, as they assuredly would, a shocking disparity
between the number of people who find their way to
the roll-book via the place of penitence, what then ?
Is it not as well to admit the losses, and to pass on
to the world the experience which the Army has
acquired in its undoubted endeavours to stem the
leakage ?

The enquiry as to the strength of the Salvation Army
remains unanswered. After referring to reliable figures
in my possession and reckoning the progress of the
Army at a reasonably high percentage since the date
to which these figures refer, I consider the following
a fairly accurate estimate of the number of Salvation


soldiers in each country where the Army is at work.
It is the first statement of the kind that has been given
to the world. The following is the list :

Great Britain and Ireland . 115,000 soldiers

France and Switzerland . 6,000 ,,

Germany .... 5,000

Holland and Belgium . 6,000

Denmark .... 2,500

Sweden .... 10,000

Italy and Spain . . 200 ,,

Austria . . . . 50

South Africa . . . 2,500

Australasia . . . 30,000

Canada .... 20,000

United States . . . 30,000

India .... 20,000

Japan . . . . 1,500

Java .... 500
Jamaica, South America,

and other parts . . 5,000


As nearly twenty thousand of these are in the pay of
the Army as officers, it may be accepted that, in round
numbers, there are a quarter of a million registered
members of the Army in the world. That is the numeri-
cal result of forty years' evangelisation throughout the
world. Personally, I think the above statement the
most astounding outcome of one man's consecration
to the service of God that the world has ever seen or


known, even when allowance is made for the number
who are soldiers of the Army by mere profession, and
the number is subtracted that have been won to the
ranks from comfortable Christian homes. The natural
corollary to a table of this importance is, What is
a Salvationist, and what is his work ? The en-
trance to the kingdom of heaven via the gate of the
Army is narrow an ordeal which, if made a condition
of ordinary Christian membership, would probably
considerably thin the roll-calls of the Churches. A
mere profession of faith and a testimony of good
character are not sufficient credentials to constitute a
member of the Salvation Army. A Salvationist pledges
himself to a life of obedience, abstinence from all in-
toxicating liquor, and self-sacrifice for the good and
salvation of the world. He is expected to wear a uni-
form, abstain from the use of nicotine and drugs, and to
avoid theatres, music halls, football matches, cricket
matches, and all worldly dress and entertainments.

Before comparison is made between the progress of
the Army and that of any other religious organisation,
a basis of comparison would be very difficult to devise.
Moral character and a public confession of faith in the
Divinity of Jesus Christ is all that is necessary for
admission into the Congregational Church. The terms
of membership of the Wesleyan Methodists are a little
more exacting, and with the Baptists the conditions
are more exacting still. But if the lady members of
these and other Nonconformist bodies were expected
to wear on Sundays the ponderous, sombre, coal-scuttle-
shaped bonnets that the Salvation Army glories in,


there would soon be, to use a commercial phrase, a
serious " slump " in chapel attendances. And if, in
addition, the male section of the members had to
forgo the soothing influence of their pipe and cigarette,
and devote their Sundays to making processions
through slum alleys and selling War Cries in low public-
houses, it is possible something nearer chapel bank-
ruptcy than a " slump " would be the result. Then the
Salvation member is expected to sing and speak in
public, and give, when called upon, a reason for the
faith that is within him. So that altogether the crea-
tion of a quarter of a million of people, sworn to con-
form to the vow of obedience and abstain from the
luxuries and the pleasures of society, is an achievement
that cannot be measured by a statistical table, al-
though there is no earthly reason that I can conceive
of for withholding the number so pledged from the
knowledge of the public. Consequently I shall sleep
with an easy conscience for daring to enumerate the
numerical standing of the Army in the countries
named. I hope we have heard the last of the objections
to the publication of an official return of its members
year by year.

The announcement that there are only 115,000 sol-
diers or members of the Army in Great Britain and
Ireland will come as a painful revelation, inasmuch as
the public has been led to estimate the strength of the
movement as phenomenal. It is nothing of the kind.
When the women members are deducted from the
total, as well as the young people of twenty years of
age, the number of adult members will be found dis-


appointingly small. And that fact compels me to put
my finger upon a constant source of anxiety to all
grades of officers, namely, the difficulty not of making,
but retaining members. The fluctuation that prevails
in the majority of the Corps in respect of membership
is one serious problem never absent from the executive
minds of the Army. It distresses, perplexes, and
baffles all.

Here is an illustration of the perplexing thing. We
will suppose that Captain B follows Captain A in the
command of Birmingham Fifteen. The membership on
the books is 180. At the first census-board meeting,
Captain B is present and goes over carefully the names
on the roll-book.

" Who is he ? " he asks the Sergeant-Major, con-
cerning number one.

"Oh," the board replies, "he is for all practical
purposes a non-member. He pays his weekly cart-
ridge ; that is all. We seldom see him."

" He ought to be struck off the roll then. Who is
number seven ? "

" Seven goes to chapel. He has not fired cartridges
for weeks, and refuses to see a sergeant."

" We must have his name off," proceeds the Cap-
tain. " And number thirty ? "

"We told your predecessor, Captain, that he ought
not to be allowed to remain on the roll."

" Strike him off. And thirty-five Mrs. Blackthorn
I've been hearing that she is a questionable charac-

" There is a deal of truth in the report. We ought to


tell her finally, that unless she attends the meetings
and pays up her cartridges, we cannot retain her name
on the roll."

" Certainly," says the Captain. " We must have a
clean roll at any price."

I have known the names of dead persons kept on the
roll for years, and people who have been confirmed
backsliders. And so it goes on until the Board agrees,
under a passion for " purifying " the roll, to the re-
moval of thirty names that were no doubt originally
added to Birmingham Fifteen with assurances of their

At the end of Captain B's command he has added,
we will suppose, thirty-five new soldiers to the Corps,
though in reality the advance is only five, owing to the
number struck off when he entered upon his duties.

Captain B leaves at the end of twelve months and is
succeeded by Adjutant C, who, perhaps, is a greater
stickler for a clean roll than his predecessor, and when
his second census-board meeting has been held he has
deleted fifty names from the roll, with the result that
at the end of fifteen months' work the Army's position
at Birmingham Fifteen is weakened by the loss of
forty-five members !

The evil for such it is is a complex one, and, in
my opinion which will be accepted for what it is
worth is an incurable evil, for there must be some-
thing inherently weak in an organisation that spends
tens of thousands of pounds per annum in saving one
hundred thousand souls, a fair estimate, and yet finds
that at the end of the year the net gain in bodies and


brains and service is practically nil after making pro-
vision for losses by death, emigration, transfers to
missions and Churches, and backsliding.

This vast subject, suggested in this comparison,
is one that only the late Professor James could have
handled with the necessary ability. For does it not
destroy the validity of the whole claim of conversion
at the penitent form ? In any other field of activity
such a disparity between gains and losses would be
condemned by common sense, although, as Lord
Morley says, common sense is very rare. Does it not
diminish the force of, if not altogether nullify the claim
which the General attaches to the Army as such to
be considered as specially raised up by God ? At
any rate, in all my experience I have not heard a
leader of the Salvation Army discuss this feature of
the work in the light of sober fact, excepting on one
occasion, by the General himself.

There lie before me now the rough notes of an inter-
view that I had with the General during one of his
long campaigns. He discoursed upon fifty causes of
backsliding, the subject having been specially forced
upon his attention at the time by a serious decline in
the number of officers and soldiers in the United
States. He had been framing " fifty causes of back-
sliding." Among the reasons he ascribed were :

Some backsliders were never frontsliders only im-
pressed made sorrowful on account of the burden of
sin, and merely resolved to amend their ways.

Some were not brought to the birth too easily dealt
with at the penitent form.


Some were killed at birth through neglect and lack
of friendly recognition.

Some were not cradled and nursed and cared for by
visitation, encouragement, and prayer.

Some died soon after their conversion, for want of

Some were drawn away by the attractions of the
world and the lust of the flesh.

Some were insincere and hypocritical. " Many are
called, but few are chosen."

I will not venture to improve upon the above plain-
spoken indictment of the evil by the greatest living
authority upon the subject of spiritual life in all its

I believe that General Booth would gladly lie down
and die if, by so doing, he could obtain a satisfactory
solution of this question. Why does the Army gain
so little out of the enormous victories that it admits
to winning week by week and year by year ? Why ?
There must be something wrong somewhere. The
leakage is too serious to be treated lightly, and my
poor contribution to the problem is this : I believe
that the Army utterly lacks the gift of the spiritual
horticulturist. If it had studied the law of growth as
it has studied how to convict men of sin in the
general sense of the term, the result of the Army's
work throughout the world would have been truly
marvellous. But it would not expend time upon the
diligent study of the science of self-preservation till it
was well-nigh too late to do so. Now they are just
beginning to study the whole problem.


The Army is successful in drawing attention to its
gospel. It can play upon the emotions and not in-
sincerely. It can dazzle before humanity an alluring,
captivating hope. In itself the Salvation Army is a
shrine of a sort of Freemasonry for a certain type of
human nature. Its system of classifying men into
grades of glorified positions with yellow, red, silver,
and gold decorations, titles and promotions which
all differentiate one class from another appeals to the
egotism of the flesh, all of which are inextricably mixed
up as characteristics of the Kingdom of God. But the
Army fails to lead them. It is a smart pleader, but a
poor reasoner. It can stir the emotions, at times to
white-heat passion, but fails to create a corresponding
reverence for the sacredness of the ordinary duties of
life. It asserts claims which tend to destroy the sense
of spiritual proportion. It places the Army, as such,
before wife, home, children, friends, and leisure. So
that in course of time there arises a conflict between
two forces feeling and duty and it is needless
to say that among the shifty, weak, and backboneless
classes from whom the Army draws a fair proportion
of its converts, a large number become mere creatures
of feeling.

Let me come down to hard facts. Duty requires
from a father that he shall occasionally stay at home
and influence his children in those directions in which
only a father can ; but if it is " band-practice night," or
there is some attraction at the hall, duty goes to the
wall. The Army fosters an unhealthy regard for home
and the stern realities of business life, not in theory,


of course, but, as is often the case in religious move-
ments, the dominant force is not its teaching so much
as its practice, and it is so in this case. The illustration
could be carried further. I know whereof I write,
and have bushels of sad and sorrowful instances of
Corps whose week-night meetings are made up of
nothing but go-to-meeting maniacs, who are as far
removed from Christians in respect of telling the truth
and practising the virtue of charity as are millions
who do not know and have never heard that these are

N <the pillars of heaven.

Na The Army will have, if I am right in these premises,
to revise its entire system for the care and nursing of
its converts ; nay, it will have to revise its notions
of conversion. At any rate, the Army's methods of

* physical compulsion should be abandoned forthwith.
People wearing an anxious look at the close of a meet-
ing are seized by sergeants as if they must there and

> then decide to go to heaven or hell. A prayer meeting
should be a most holy and sacred place, and not an
auctioneer's shop. Sinners are literally dragged in

^ some meetings to the penitent form. And when there,
often amid yells of delight while people are " rolling
out " to the penitents' bench, they are supposed to be
receiving spiritual counsel. All the laws of delibera-
tion, thought, and prayer are thrown to the winds
while men and women are supposed to be passing from
death to life. Shameful orgies are often practised. I
have indulged in them myself. I have seen officers
dance around a penitent form while sinners have been
led weeping to it. I have heard officers ask that


coppers might be thrown on to the platform to make
the day's offerings up to a certain sum, while men and
women at his feet have been endeavouring to seek the
help of God to make restitution for sin, or find a way
of escape from the lashings of a guilty conscience. Then
converts are " rushed through " to a registration room,
where their names are taken, and I have known the
same converts in less than three weeks stand on a
public platform and declare their acceptance of
doctrines that many of the officers dare not preach,
and vow that they will live and die in the Salvation

Is it any wonder, then, that for every hundred per-
sons that kneel at the penitent form, not five per cent
remain faithful to the faith that they there profess ?
Is it surprising that there should be such reactions and
losses and lapses when these are some of the conditions
under which spiritual children are supposed to have
been born into the w r orld, and that weak and ignorant
men and women are morally compelled to swallow
doctrines upon which the Churches of to-day are rent
in twain ? Is it any wonder that there should be no
conscience on this subject when, notwithstanding the
knowledge that officers possess as to the worthless-
ness of penitent-form figures, week after week the
official organ of the movement gives special and sensa-
tional importance to reports from Corps of soul-saving
events, and rhetorical exaggerations on every subject
that it attempts to vindicate ?

I give a few instances selected at random from an
average War Cry :

Copy right i Bolak.



A prize is awarded every week to the correspondent
who sends in the most interesting soul-saving report,
and in the War Cry for February 25, 1911, this was
awarded to Coventry I, and was headed " Could show
Four Sovereigns " what a convert had saved in a
few weeks since he gave up the use of beer. Yet will
it be believed that this incident is reported in connection
with the celebration of the thirty-first anniversary of
a Corps whose membership is less by one hundred than
it was during the first year of its existence ?

The next report states that the meeting was " swayed
by the Spirit of God," and " three souls accepted the
invitation to seek Salvation." The building " was
packed." Where is the relative truth between the
" swaying " and the results ?

" The Army Flag at the Masthead " is the title of
a characteristic report of a campaign which succeeded
a visit of the General to Swansea. It glows with
references to the converts ; but it does not point out
that eighty-five per cent of these converts were back-
sliders. The report concludes : " Amongst the con-
verts were men from the common lodging-houses ;
some had never been to the Army before."

At Worksop we are informed that " twenty- two boys
and girls came out for salvation."

In the same issue the following remarks were passed
upon a worthy Colonel :

" Salvation Army advertisements differ from other
advertisements in that they are absolutely true ; and
we are able to uphold that unique claim because
Colonel , throughout the whole time he has had


control of the Army's trading operations, has insisted
upon every quality ascribed to goods that are offered
for sale being capable of entire substantiation."

On page 14 of the same paper we are informed that
" a novel wall decoration " is not only " imperish-
able," "but cannot lose colour, break, or deteriorate,
being executed in solid copper. . . . Price Is. 6d."
And this is " absolutely true" and " capable of entire

Speaking again of the man who passed this adver-
tisement, the War Cry states : " The Colonel has a
keen hatred of anything like misrepresentation," and
" Nobody has ever seen Colonel perturbed ! "

In a leading article on the death of one of the
Army's truly great characters, Mr. Bramwell Booth
asks :

" Who but the Army could have won him from his
former wildness ? Or, had others succeeded in bringing
about his conversion, what would they then have done
with him ? " What egotism ! It is refreshing to learn
from the same pen, however, that "it is faith in the
wonder-working power of God that saves and keeps
from sin."

Examples by the score could be multiplied of this
spirit of inflated egotism and exaggeration from any
issue of the official organ of the Salvation Army
demonstrative of at least one of the main causes that
partly explains the inability of the Army to lead its
penitents from the penitent form to the soldier's roll.
This spirit is displayed by nearly all officers, the
General giving the lead, The sense of proportion


would appear to have temporarily died in the veteran
leader of the Army when he wrote this sentence :
" Holland to-day presents one of the most stupendous
chances for extending the Kingdom of Jesus Christ to
be found in the world." And then without qualifica-
tion he goes on : " Here you have a people that are
willing to listen, to consider, and to act ; a Govern-
ment, a Church, and a Nation that are just discovering
our value, and are at least ready to profit by it ; and
liberty for the fight, combined with a force of staff,
field, and local officers and soldiers all ready to be led
to victory, with Jehovah waiting to crown every faith-
ful effort with unprecedented triumph."

Many of the Army's friends contend that while this
spirit permeates the literature of the Army of which
the above are extremely mild illustrations the converts
of the Army cannot thrive. They believe that the cause
of the evil to which I have referred is to be found here.
It may be so. My own belief is that it is simply symp-
tomatic of a constitutional malady that is almost in-
curable, and must be left to work out its own destruc-
tive end. It would be well-nigh impertinent were I
therefore to play the part of adviser to the executive
of the Salvation Army. They know their own business
best. I am no longer in their councils. The place
I occupy is that of the spectator who sees most of the
game and where the weak points are. I have touched,
very lightly I consider, upon one of these weak points ;
but that the Army will admit the need of a radical re-
form in the spirit and methods of the work among their
own penitents I do not for a moment expect. The facts,


however, are as I have stated, and it is not by
shutting their eyes to them that the leaders of the
Army will remove their ugliness. They are deplored
by all, but no one has the courage to advocate the
claims of a new penitent form or a revision of the very
principles of the Army. The Army needs a respect
for accuracy of report and a scientific sifting of the
figures which relate to their converts, recruits, and
soldiers, accompanied by a regular statement as to
the number of its members in all lands. In time I
believe someone will stand up in its councils and

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Online LibraryA M NicolGeneral Booth and the Salvation Army → online text (page 15 of 25)