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influence upon the personality of the Salvation
Army General. He is an old man now, in quest
of more power for his organisation. That passion
has led him up the giddy flights of fame, and yet,
as he told Mr. Rhodes, and tells men in all walks
of life, " I was once very wicked, very wicked
indeed."

He cheated at marbles when at school, made love
to a pretty girl, and pursued the inclination of a not
very generous disposition. Then he got converted at
the age of fifteen, and as in the case of St. Paul, the
effect of that experience was to change the whole
current of his thought and ambition. The vain youth
of fifteen became a preacher at that age.

He took religion with Puritanic seriousness ; he
recollected, after his conversion, that he had not paid
a schoolmate a sixpence that he had won unfairly at
a game of marbles. He searched the pages of the
Scripture for all texts having a bearing upon the
doctrine of restitution, and confessed to his companion



GENERAL BOOTH'S BOYISH DREAMS 7

his sin and restored to him the sixpence ! He apolo-
gised to the girl with " a pair of blue eyes and golden
ringlets " that he had been playing with her affections,
and begged her to forgive him ! He read Paley's
Evidences of Christianity at nights after the house-
hold had gone to bed, and testified to his parents in the
morning that he was " saved from hell and the fear of
the grave " ! He organised mission parties to preach
the Gospel to the loafing, argumentative crowds at the
Meadow Flats of his native town. Methodism intro-
duced him to class meetings, preaching services,
prayer meetings, and an occasional fortnight's revival
mission. But all these only seemed to touch the fringe
of the world of misery, to the needs of which, even in
these days, his eyes had been partially opened.

" What shall I do with my life ? " he asked himself
many a night. He saw the failure that his father had
made of his. He considered the rich what had
wealth done to save men ? Young as he was, he was
given to dreaming over the state of the world, and
was often a sympathetic listener to the oratory of the
Chartist leaders, who had many ardent followers in
the town of Nottingham. He had discussed with his
companions the Chartist programme of Political Re-
form, and when he became " a decided Christian,"
Chartist principles shrank, in his judgment, into so
much mere polish of the outer evils that the leaders
deplored.

He stood on the sidewalks of his native town and
watched long lines of working men and women march
past, waving banners, demanding higher wages, less



8 GENERAL BOOTH

number of hours of labour, vote by ballot, annual
parliaments, and other political reforms. He saw
Democracy in the travail of a new birth, and heard
their leaders denounce the grinding tyranny of Capi-
talism. He was moved, stirred, agitated. Something
ought to be done. The people were starving, and
children were crying for bread. He had heard with his
own ears the same cries, and he was forming the theory
that the State as such ought to become a veritable
Moses to the enslaved and poverty-stricken operatives
of the Midlands.

He recognised in Feargus O'Connor an evangelist of
Reform, and had young Booth come in personal con-
tact with the zealots of the Chartist movement, it is
more than likely that the history of this period would
have contained a stirring chapter upon the exploits of
William Booth as a political agitator.

But it was too late. Methodism had captured him.
His conversion had confused his reasoning faculties.
There is no bigot like the dogmatic theologian. William
Booth could not see, and does not see now, that the
spirit of progress can permeate the smoke-room of a
workman's club and even the caucus of a political
party. He had imbibed strong individualistic beliefs,
such as " the soul was the citadel of moral strength."
To capture that, to have it commanded by the Captain
of Salvation, was infinitely more important than votes,
or parliaments, or comfortable dwellings, or reasonable
wages. The local Gamaliels of Methodism had inocu-
lated these maxims into the very fibre of his being, and
the idealism of the Rev. James Caughey an American



CONVERSION TO METHODISM 9

evangelist who made a great stir in Methodist circles
at this period swayed Booth's imagination, and it
came to pass that he emerged from the political sensa-
tions of his times and the influence of Anglicanism in
which he was reared, a fervent, narrow, madly enthu-
siastic Methodist. He was a Methodist first and last.
To him, Methodism was God's chosen instrument for the
salvation of the masses. He afterwards declared :

" I worshipped everything that bore the name of
Methodism. To me there was one God, and John
Wesley was His prophet. The story of his life was my
chief romance. No human compositions were com-
parable to his writings. The hymns of his brother
Charles formed part of my soul's daily menu. All
that was needed in my judgment for the general better-
ment of the world was the faithful carrying into
practice of the letter and spirit of Wesley's doctrines.
Change a man and he will soon change his circum-
stances. Reform must be preceded by regeneration. I
cared little then for forms and ceremonies. What I
wanted to see above everything else in the world was
an organisation with the salvation of souls as its
supreme and all-consuming ambition, worked upon
the simple, earnest principles that I had embraced,
and which, to some extent, I had seen successfully
applied. When I am dead, and posterity passes its
verdict upon William Booth, I hope that I shall be
remembered as a soul- winner."

v. That is the ruling passion of the creator of the
Salvation Army, to satisfy which he has organised a
huge engine of ecclesiastical power. Paradoxical as



10 GENERAL BOOTH

it may sound, the Salvation Army is governed by more
creeds, orders, forms, ceremonies, and regulations
than any other religious system on the face of
the earth. Yet the passion of its founder for the
salvation of men remains unabated.

Here is an illustration of the failure of organi-
sation per se, on the one hand, and on the other hand
the grandeur of his passion for souls in its dogmatic
assertiveness. A day's service had been organised at
Fakenham, in Norfolk. A big marquee had been
secured with the object of attracting the motley visi-
tors to that town on the market-day. A large staff of
experienced officers had been drafted from London
and Norwich to aid the General in making the experi-
ment a success. The district was billed and circularised.
Everyone was confident of a great success. In antici-
pation of a large ingathering of penitents, a Registra-
tion Room was attached to the rear of the tent.
Altogether fifty officers were appointed to the respec-
tive duties of orderlies, " fishers," and registration
sergeants.

The first of the day's services began at eleven.
Everything was in order. The doorkeepers were at
their posts. The aisles were laid with matting to
silence any noise that might be caused by the passage
of the visitors to the tent. Staff officers, field officers,
and local officers were everywhere. In a word, the
organisation was perfect. Only one factor was needed
to complete the success of the enterprise people, and
they were conspicuous by their absence ! The total
attendance did not exceed a hundred all told ! The



HIS HATRED OF FAILURE 11

service did not draw. The Norfolk farmers remained
in the market to dispose of their produce and stock.

The consequence was a death-like silence in and
around the marquee when the worthy General drove
up in a carriage and pair to the side entrance. An old
Salvation campaigner, he took in the situation at a
glance. " Well, Lawley, what have we got here ? "
he asked his stage-manager.

" Not much, General," meekly replied that bur-
den bearer.

The General frowned. (He accepts failures with
bad grace.)

The meeting proved an utter fiasco. The General
spoke in jagged sentences, snappishly complained about
a draught on the platform, ordered a woman to stop
fanning, an officer to assist a mother with her boy, and
spoke to Colonel Lawley in a gruff and snarly manner
about his soloing. No one at the close of the gathering
came to the penitent form, and the meeting ended
without ceremony or feeling.

So far, then, all this organisation only served to
magnify the cruelty of the failure. The General was
wroth. His face was like a clouded sky, and thunder
and lightning were in his eyes. Poor Staff Officers !
They were as dumb machines in the presence of the
General when called into a small tent at the rear of the
marquee.

; ' What have I made this Salvation Army for ? "
he cried, looking sternly at the provincial officer, the
man officially responsible for the disaster. " Have I
raised you men to positions of influence in the world,



12 GENERAL BOOTH

and covered your epaulettes with stars, to curse the
thing that God has permitted me to give form to ?
Am I dependent upon you ? God can do without the
Salvation Army, and I am not beholden to it. I can
wipe it off the slate to-morrrow, and I would do so
without a pang of regret if I thought that it would
become a glorified corpse. You Staff Officers feel no
responsibility. There is not one man among you who
will come forward now and say, * General, I am the
man that has let you down.' If you thought you had
a hand in it, you would at once begin to excuse your-
selves."

We stood as if in a judgment hall listening to our
doom, for the General exercises a curious terror over his
officers at times. The old man seized his hat and
walked briskly to his carriage.

" Shall I come up for you for the next meeting ? "
asked the docile Lawley.

" No," cried the General. And he went away from
that failure wrathful and sorrowful, and dictated a
letter to his Chief of the Staff, in which the following
notable comment was made upon the morning ser-
vice :

" We are developing the Field Organisation over-
much. The divided responsibility of the Provincial
Officer and the Divisional Officer is depriving the
concern of sense of direct responsibility. I can find
no one here who will accept responsibility for the
failure. Will you ? We must go into this thoroughly
when we meet."



THE PENITENTS BENCH 13

Poor old man ! To do him justice, his keenest dis-
appointment was in seeing no one at the penitent form.
For the apple of his eye is the penitent form. It is the
barometer of the movement and the instrument by
which the General weighs the value of his own efforts.

General Booth's Sundays are high days and holidays.
He preaches in the morning from such texts as " All
things are possible to him that belie veth," and at
night from " Be sure your sins will find you out."
After an address that usually lasts from forty to sixty
minutes, Colonel Lawley steps to his side and in a
pleading, silvery tone of voice asks for

" volunteers. Who will be the first man or woman to
leave his or her seat and walk up here and kneel down
at this chair and ask God to blot out the past ? We
are waiting for the first the first to surrender. Now
is the time ! Come ! God is here. The Spirit has been
striving. You are found out. Your sins are making
hell in your lives. Come to my Lord, and He will turn
the hell into a heaven. Come, come ! "

Someone comes. He is led by a sergeant along the
aisle to a row of seats on the stage arranged for the
penitents. Shouts of " Hallelujah " rend the theatre
where the General's Sunday meetings are usually held.
The drummer will probably whack his high-sounding
instrument, and the General will rise to his feet, leap
to the rail, and cry, " I see another, Colonel, and
another ! Blessed be the Lord ! The angels must be
rejoicing ! "

Then, while the stream of voluntary seekers for



14 GENERAL BOOTH

salvation descend from the galleries or walk from the
pit few come from the boxes and dress-circle the
audience, assisted by a lusty brass band, will sing with
boyish gusto :

<{ Oh the prodigal's coming home, coming home,

No more to roam :

He is weary, wandering far away from God,
He is seeking his Father's face,
And longing for His grace,
Oh, the prodigal's coming home, coming home."

Varied by loud praying, piano-like soloing, rapturous
singing, volleys of "Amens" and "Hallelujahs," the
number of penitents is duly counted and announced
from the stage to the audience, and the veteran leader
seems lost in the revelry of the scene. It is one of the
most extraordinary sights in the religious life of the
country, and the General thinks that it is here where
one should try to learn what the Salvation Army is.

His penetrating eyes now dim with age com-
prehend the entire situation. No evangelist ever lived
who could tune his harp to the moods and emotions of
an audience as does the General. He holds in check any
tendency of a meeting to become uproarious, and
quickens its enthusiasm when it flags, passes kindly
encouragements or reproofs to the musicians and
staff officers, interrupts his Colonel, interjects a word
of appeal now and again to the undecided, paces to
and fro the stage, smiles, waves his arms, claps his
hands, and when the number of penitents reaches the
hundred, he ties a neckerchief round his throat,
turns a suggestive look to his valet, and steals re-



THE LAST WORD 15

luctantly away from the scene of salvation and is lost
behind the wings of the stage ! He plunges his arms
into a big fur-lined coat, and sinks into a chair, quite
delighted.

" Ah ! this has been a good day," he will say.
" One hundred and ten is it now ? Good ! Is the cab
ready ? Thanks ! Now for bread and milk. Good
night ! Tell Lawley to believe for another century."

When the last " Amen " is shouted, and the last
refrain is sung, the Colonel perspiring and voiceless
pronounces the benediction. But he has still a sacred
duty to perform. The Prime Minister of His Majesty's
Government is supposed to summarise the debates
in Parliament each day for the personal benefit of the
King ; and in Queen Victoria's reign this custom was
scrupulously observed. In General Booth's Government
his personal Adjutant would be metaphorically shot
if he failed to acquaint his Chief at the end of such a
meeting as I have described with the grand total of
penitents no matter how late the service or how far
the tired Colonel will have to travel to his master's
billet.

It was at Liverpool that I once volunteered to fulfil
this function for my colleague. It was very late when
I arrived at Sefton Park, but the maid had received
instructions that when an officer called he was to be
shown at once to the General's room. I accordingly
stepped gently inside.

" I have brought the number of penitents, General,"
I said.

The old General was snugly tucked between the



16 GENERAL BOOTH

bedclothes, and his valet was fast asleep in the next
room.

" Well, what does the paper say ? " (The number
was marked on the margin of a page torn from a hymn-
book.)

I read it as Colonel Lawley had written it.

" 185 Hallelujah ! Johnnie Lawley ! "

" Beautiful ! " ejaculated the General. " But we
ought to have had the second century, Nicol. We
ought. Did that backslider get through ? Did he ?
That was a good case. And what about the man
separated from his wife ? Was there a reconciliation ?
You don't say so ! Reconciled at the mercy seat and
embraced each other in the Registration Room !
Glory ! That will make a good story for The War
Cry ! No, write the whole story out for me. It

will do for me to tell Lord A when I see him on

Tuesday. I'll sleep well to-night. God is good ! I
hope you are writing something hot for The War
Cry. 185 185 Jesus Jesus ! "

And before I had closed the door and wished him
" Good night " the great evangelist was asleep.

I was once unintentionally guilty of wounding the
General in a tender spot and unexpectedly revealing
the depth of this passion for a Salvation meeting.

We were voyaging to Australia and called at
Colombo. During the sixteen hours that our steamer
lay at anchor in the harbour, the General, by arrange-
ment, went ashore to conduct a small social meeting.
The staff accompanying him Colonel Lawley, Briga-
dier F. Cox, and myself were thankful to learn on



A REBUKE 17

landing that the Ceylon officer had not succeeded in
securing a hall suitable for a Salvation meeting, and I
quite frankly gave vent to my feelings by saying,
" Thank God ! " I had my reason for doing so.

Instantly the eyes of the General darted fiery anger
upon me. As we ascended the gangway on our return
to the ship, the General whispered to me, " Nicol, come
down to my cabin in five minutes' time,"

When I entered, the General closed his cabin door
and in a stern manner said, " You cut me to the
heart this morning ! "

I had forgotten my ejaculation, and stood amazed,
and replied, " Then I am unconscious, General, of
having done so."

" You know that Salvation meetings are my meat
and drink they are the wine of Paradise to my soul."

I assented.

" Yet you had the audacity to say * Thank God ! '
when you heard that mild-mannered Colonel ashore
tell me that there was no Salvation meeting for me in
Colombo. What did you mean ? Are you a back-
slider ? "

The cause of his resentment was thus made clear. I
replied with some spirit : "I know what you mean,
but I am unrepentant. For the last fourteen days
you have scarcely been able to crawl out of your cabin,
General, and a Salvation meeting in Colombo would
have been madness in your state of health. It might
have been attended with a collapse on your part ;
and I have too healthy a horror of that possibility
not to express my feelings as I did ashore. The



18 GENERAL BOOTH

Chief of your Staff is your son. He is my master, and
if anything serious happened to you, General, I should
be shot in Trafalgar Square ! "

" What about that ? God would crown you with
honour. Never raise a little finger against your
General saving souls. Leave that business to the
devil."

Here, then, you have the real General Booth, the
man whose passion for saving men from the Hell
that he believes in, and the Hell that men make for
themselves, brooks no obstacle or interference. All
the same, I was very glad that there was no such
meeting !

The General loves to talk and sing of salvation when
alone. I have often known him to absorb a whole hour
of his time singing and reciting, in company with his
personal staff, old Methodist and Banter hymns
that were in vogue fifty years ago. He would enrich
the singing by associating some hymn with an incident
in his career, or the conversion of some noted " char-
acter," He is a charming conversationalist.

At the end of the recreation, he would lean back
in his chair, and, closing his eyes, speak reverently to
God. Here is one of the prayers that he thus breathed
on the way out to Australia :

" Give us souls, Lord, We live only for that. What
is the good of sermons and chapels and meetings, and
marchings and voyages, if we do not win men to
Thyself ? Lord, we are dissatisfied at the rate at
which we are progressing. There must be a more
excellent way for reaching the hearts of the people.



THE GENERAL AND MISS TENNANT 19

Give us another view of Calvary ! It is full of mystery
to us. To be loved by God, to be counted worthy of
living with God at last. Oh, my Lord, how can we
praise Thee ! Bless the Army ! Save it from minding
high things. Keep us humble. Save the poor, and
bless the people on board this ship ! "

The General is the same everywhere. If he is
travelling in the train he is sure to concern himself,
provided there is half a chance of doing so with
propriety, with the spiritual welfare of his fellow-
passengers.

On his way to the West of England, the wife of the
present Prime Minister, then Miss Margot Tennant,
the idol of an admiring society, occupied a place in the
same compartment. The General caught sight of the
book in which she seemed absorbed, and in an artful
and tactful manner opened a conversation with the
stranger. Both were at once favourably impressed
with each other, and with that charm with which the
distinguished lady can enter upon the discussion of
almost any subject, the leader of the Army felt that he
was in the presence of a woman of no ordinary intellect.
In a few minutes they were exchanging views upon
the value of the Christian religion to the heathen, the
supernatural in Christianity, the stability of the
Salvation Army, its failure in some villages with which
she was familiar, and the efficacy of prayer. I took
notes of part of the conversation, and think the
following transcript is in the main correct :

Miss Tennant : " Do you not encourage the sin of
presumption in permitting your soldiers to testify and



20 GENERAL BOOTH

pray no doubt sincerely extemporaneously ? Why
do you not teach them a collection of prayers ? "

The General : " We should first have to teach them
to read, and in the progress I am afraid they would
lose their zeal. [Miss Tennant smiled.] The fire would
die out. What is prayer ? The cry of the child for its
mammy is a form of prayer. The sigh of a broken
heart is prayer. The quick, repenting confession of a
soul convicted of sin, if only expressed in ' My God ! '
is an effectual prayer. The prayer of a ritual is only
helpful to the soul in harmony with it, or whose ex-
perience it interprets to the heart for the time being."
t Miss Tennant : " How can the spiritual life of a soul
grow unless thoughts are expressed to the soul, as in
the Book of Common Prayer ? I may be wrong,
General, but one of the reasons for the lapse of so
many that begin the Christian life well and then
fall away, as in the case of the converts of the Army
in the village to which I refer, is because real religion
does not sink very deeply into their nature."

The General : " Remember the pit from which they
have been dug, their homes and surroundings. Let
me tell you of the home life of one of the noblest
soldiers that I know about in this Salvation Army."
And the General proceeded to describe the conversion
of a man whose wife was in and out of prison, and yet
who treated her as if she was a saint. " And he cannot
read or write, or count figures except by the help of his
ten fingers. As to lapses, the Churches go up and down ;
even in politics we hear of ' backslidings,' ' slumps,'
and ' landslides.' '

At which Miss Tennant merrily interposed: " Oh, quite
so, General Booth, and these all add zest to the politics
of the hour ; but do tell me what is the secret of the re-
markable unity which one sees everywhere in the Army."



THE GENERAL AND MISS TENNANT 21

The General was fascinated with the originality of
his questioner, and plunged into the story of his own
experience until it was time for Miss Tennant to change
at Swindon Junction. In a moment the General was
on his knees, remarking as he knelt down in the com-
partment, "My secretary here will assist you with
your baggage. There is time for a little prayer."

Earnestly the evangelical General besought the
Lord to enrich the lady's soul with a plenitude of
grace and a lifelong choice of Christ and His Cross.

Miss Tennant was not at all displeased at the
novelty of her experience, and when I handed her rug
as she entered the compartment of another train, she
exclaimed, " What a charming old man is your
General ! "

On returning to the General, I found him scribbling
away for dear life a letter for Miss Tennant, intended
to answer with more deliberation than he could bestow
at the time some of the questions raised in the train.

" I wish she could see Emma " (his daughter), he
said. " A woman of the type we have met is destined
to fill a leading place in society. If she could but see
what a career of usefulness she might have in the
Army, we might get her to abandon society and join us
in lifting the world to God."

But it was too late. Shortly afterwards the news-
papers announced that she was engaged to Mr. Herbert
Henry Asquith !

This aggressive character of General Booth is occa-
sionally imperious; Charles Haddon Spurgeon would
have called it rudeness, and Mr, Dwight L. Moody



22 GENERAL BOOTH

would have described it as " applying the Gospel with
the help of the hammer." He prays with all his hosts,
and if in the press of business the sacred benediction
is left to the last moment, he will turn the vestibule or
hall of the house into a sanctuary for prayer.

He does not forget the maids or the servants. In



Online LibraryA M NicolGeneral Booth and the Salvation Army → online text (page 2 of 25)