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regain the position and to make up for the numerical
set-back by an improvement in the quality of the
average soldier and officer, but he is practically single-
handed. So that once more I return to the lamentable
and irretrievable loss that was sustained when, in
Abney Park Cemetery, the mortal remains of the
Army Mother were laid to rest. The tribute that the
General gave his beloved partner on that occasion
was a worthy monument to the memory of this
modern Catherine of Siena.

As to the influence Mrs. Booth exercised upon the re-
ligious world, it is somewhat difficult to estimate. The
denominational leaders of English Churches are not
very liberal in their distribution of praise or acknow-
ledgment of work done outside their own border.
So far as I have been able to read the effect of the life
of Mrs. Booth upon the thought of her generation,
there can be no question but that it was deep and far-
reaching. She was the first of great women preachers.
She placed woman on an equality with man in the
service of the organisation which with her husband she
created, and she lent her influence to much legislation
that had for its object the lessening of public houses
and the abolition of the Contagious Diseases Act.



HER INFLUENCE ON THE CAUSE 55

On the movement of the Army it was incalculable
and will live as long as the Army itself exists. Her
greatest power was in the example she set before her
people. It is impossible to fix upon one particular
scheme of great proportion that may be directly
ascribed to her genius and to her alone. The hier-
archical character of the Army prevents that being
done. The discovery of one becomes the property of all.
The achievement of a Commissioner Booth-Tucker and
the suggestion of an obscure officer are alike merged
in the general result to the Army as such. That may
be for good or evil. In any case, Mrs. General Booth
was a great Englishwoman who raised herself and her
husband from obscurity to one of the most extra-
ordinary platforms that have been erected for the
diffusion of religion after the standard of the Salvation
Army, and she adorned her profession with a life that
was one beautiful and lifelong comment upon what
she preached.

No greater tribute could be given this modern
Catherine of Siena than what fell from the lips of her
husband at her graveside :

" If you had had a counsellor, who in hours con-
tinually occurring of perplexity and amazement, had
ever advised you, and seldom advised wrong ; whose ad-
vice you had followed and seldom had reason to regret
it ; and the counsellor, while you are in the same intri-
cate mazes of your existence, had passed away, you
would miss that counsellor.

" If you had had a friend who understood your very
nature, the rise and fall of your feelings, the bent of



56 GENERAL BOOTH

your thoughts, and the purpose of your existence ; a
friend whose communion had ever been pleasant the
most pleasant of all other friends to whom you had
ever turned with satisfaction, and your friend had
been taken away, you would feel some sorrow at the
loss.

" If you had had a mother for your children, who
had cradled and nursed and trained them for the ser-
vice of the living God, in which you most delighted
a mother indeed, who had never ceased to bear their
sorrows on her heart, and had been ever willing to
pour forth that heart's blood in order to nourish
them, and that darling mother had been taken from
your side, you would feel it a sorrow.

" If you had had a wife, a sweet love of a wife, who
for forty years had never given you real cause for
grief : a wife who had stood side by side with you in
the battle's front, who had been a comrade to you,
ever willing to interpose herself between you and the
enemy, and ever the strongest when the battle was
fiercest, and your beloved one had fallen before your
eyes, I am sure there would be some excuse for your
sorrow.

" Well, my comrades, you can roll all these qualities
into one personality, and what would be lost in each
I have lost all in one ! There has been taken away from
me the delight of my eyes, the inspiration of my soul,
and we are about to lay all that remains of her in the
grave. I have been looking right at the bottom of it
here, and calculating how soon they may bring and
lay me alongside of her, and my cry to God has been
that every remaining hour of my life may make me
readier to come and join her in death, to go and
embrace her in the Eternal City."



CHAPTER III
THE MAKING OF A GENERAL

A Midsummer Night's Dream Banging Theology against the Wall
A Vision of East London" Can you say the Lord's Prayer
in Latin?" The Converted Milkman The Burkers The
Volunteer Movement makes the Salvation Army The Outcome
of a Revised Sentence

WE have seen, in perspective, the two personalities
who had much to do in reality had all to do in
creating and forming the Salvation Army. The one
possessed the essential prophetic fire, the other the
philosophic mind ; the General had a Napoleonic
vision of conquest, his wife a keener and more accurate
sense of the fitness of measures to the object of their con-
secration. But for the correcting, deliberative nature
of Mrs. Booth, the General might have adopted a
Philistine policy for his organisation ; and but for the
masterful hand of the General, the Army might and
probably would have developed into a big and useful
mission, but only a mission, which, however, Mrs. Booth
might have favoured.

When on that memorable midsummer night they
resolved to turn the East End of London into the base
of an experiment to compel the people to listen to their
message, they really set out to make an Army. The
idea had not taken shape in their calculations, but the

57



58 GENERAL BOOTH

intention was there at least to form some organisation,
of which they should have sole control. They were
wearied with the circumlocution of committees, con-
ferences, congresses, and big central headquarters.
They would, if successful, be their own parliament,
executive, and directorate all in one. They would
train their children to follow in their footsteps. It
therefore followed that when the necessity of securing
the services of a helper for the Mission arose, the
General undertook the responsibility of paying his
salary. The contract placed the Rev. William Booth
in the relation of a master to the evangelist. When a
second and third and thirtieth and thousandth helper
was required, the same principle was maintained, and
if he should live to see the millionth officer com-
missioned, that officer will stand in relation to him
as a paid official. This form of proprietorship is far
from dead in the General's mind.

It will therefore be necessary to trace the progress
of William Booth with a little more detail, if we are
to find the historical as well as the personal equation of
the movement, for the generalship of the General of
the Salvation Army was manufactured in the Sand-
hurst of his clerical and evangelistic life.

He inherited, I admit, part of his acquisitive, com-
manding spirit. The parents of General Booth be-
longed to the middle-class society of the town of
Nottingham. His father was a house-builder who
succeeded in making a small fortune, and then in losing
it. He over-speculated in house property ; and when
a fall in values occurred, owing to a sudden reverse in



THE MAKING OF A GENERAL 59

trade, Mr. Booth found himself unable to meet his
creditors. But he was a strong man.

The influence of that misfortune saddened the
family, and young William in particular. After his
conversion, William considered that his parents, es-
pecially his father, made the adversity an excuse for
neglecting the claims of their souls, though at best
the Booths were nominal Church people. General
Booth did not derive his spiritual inspirations from
his father. The resolute determination of the mother,
however, to make the best of the father's misfortune
left an indelible impression upon the son. He ad-
mired his mother and believed in her native wisdom
and shrewdness.

In after years he spoke of the formative effect of his
home life upon his character in these words :

" I learned the habit from my mother never to state
a fact unless I was sure that it was so. I maintain that
it is not enough that someone says so-and-so, and
another believes it, for you to pass it on as gospel. Do
you know that it is so ? When an officer comes to
me with a statement which he offers me as correct, I
invariably ask him if he knows that it is reliable. Can
he tell from his own knowledge or investigation that it
is correct ? There are three classes of people in the
world the ' hope-so's,' the ' think-so's/ and the
' KNOW-SO'S.' I like the latter. My mother was a
thorough woman, and the attribute that I most admire
in men is thoroughness.

" I learned to practise this virtue through the
example of my mother. My wife possessed the same
characteristic. When engaged in trying to solve the



60 GENERAL BOOTH

problem of some soul in distress, she would give to that
task her very best. If she were sewing a button on my
vest, she acted on the same principle. My mother was
thorough '; my wife was thorough ; and I hope that I
have some of the same precious metal in me. If I am
not satisfied with an address that I have drafted, I will
revise it again and again, and not put it aside until it
has been rewritten or corrected ten, fifteen, or twenty
times. I like to do my work well, whether it is placing
a stamp on an envelope or saving a soul. Thorough
work will last till the Judgment Day and after."

William Booth's conversion was another formative
factor in moulding the character of the future leader
of the Salvation Army. We have already indicated
the influence of that experience in his private life.
The effect of it upon his career was equally revolu-
tionary. It stirred within him a passion to become a
preacher. A band of young enthusiasts met occa-
sionally in a small room of the Methodist Chapel in
Nottingham for private meditation and counsel, and
it was at these unauthorised gatherings that the rebel
in William Booth was first awakened. His incursions
upon the Meadow Flats gave no offence to the pillars
of the Church till young Booth and his gang brought
" the fruit of their labours " to the church doors on
Sunday nights.

Instead of welcoming Booth, and harnessing him to
work with responsibility that might have tended to
cool the ardour of his spirits, the local leaders of
Methodism objected to ill-clad, dirty, and debased
" stockingers " entering the circuit chapel and filling



YOUNG BOOTH AT NOTTINGHAM 61

up the pews usually set apart for the elect of the fold !
" It was so horrid, impudent, and dangerous. Suppose
all were to follow this young man's example, they
would drive respectable people away from the house
of God ! " These and other arguments resolved the
functionaries of the chapel to decide that when
Booth and his singing, processioning tatterdemalions
came up from the Flats on a Sunday night, to admit
them only by the back door that led up to the top cor-
ner in the gallery. They were religious Machiavellians.
The resolution, when given effect to, made a martyr
of the embryo evangelist. The majority sided with the
decision of the leaders, but the minority, the truest
successors of John Wesley, the outdoor evangelist,
thought the young man had the spirit of the Gospel.
Booth's boys, it is true, were noisy and violent in their
language and unwise in their diplomacy, and they
consequently somewhat spoiled a reputation that
otherwise would have triumphed over the little eccle-
siasticism. Still, the fact that the fathers of his
adopted Church did not see the needs of the poor
people as he did made a painful impression on young
Booth. He wept, prayed, and gnashed his teeth.
Commenting on the incident, he stated :

" In making my choice, with my companions in this
guerilla warfare, I see now that I then apprehended,
almost without knowing it, that the Church of my ideal
must be aggressive. I had little sympathy with the
go-to-meeting, easy-going class of Methodist, and the
action of the leaders in sending me round by the
back door of the chapel planted in me the seed of



62 GENERAL BOOTH

rebellion against the complacent and stereotyped form
of things from which it is now too late to deliver me."



But did Methodism make a mistake in sending the
lad round by the back door ? It will, I think, be con-
ceded that the decision of the local leaders constituted
one of those tactical blunders that eventually work
for the good of that other or greater Church whose
borders are not delimited by Church polity or doctrine.
It was a mistake that made William Booth a more
intense friend of the social black sheep of his native
town and developed in him that egotism which in
time was to make a mark upon the religious life of
England.

At twenty William Booth came to London and
worked as a clerk to a respectable pawnbroker in
Clapham, and here the rebel was ripened in him. The
nature of his occupation brought him in close touch
with the people. He saw into the tragic side of life
and the many honest and legitimate diplomacies
that are resorted to by the poor in their fight with
poverty. He was an observer of other tragedies not so
commendable, and in his secret moments he made vows
to God that if ever he were free to mould public thought
he would do something to expose the " nefarious doings
of the privileged classes of society " and invent some
plan for helping the distressed, He had to wait
nearly forty years, however, before he realised that
ambition, though the few years he spent behind the
counter of a pawnbroker's shop were not wasted. The
shop formed one of the colleges at which he graduated



SOME EARLY EXPERIENCES 63

for that ministry that depends less on learning than
compassion for its success.

In this position he was tortured with his conscience
as to Sunday labour. He would not submit to it.
And so he and his master quarrelled, and eventually
he left his employment. That was a dark day in his
life. On the day that he parted with his bread and
butter for conscience' sake he had not the slightest
idea as to where he would obtain work or be greeted
with a word of sympathy. Meditating upon his
prospects, he was walking along Clapham Common
one evening, with only a sixpence in his possession
literally the last he had when he met a poor con-
sumptive woman carrying a big burden. He stopped
and spoke to her, and learned that she had to support
a large family by charing, and with Tolstoian reckless-
ness he handed her his only sixpence and gave her his
blessing, bade her submit to her circumstances in
the faith that God would not forsake her even when
her feet entered the long valley of death. Instead of
daunting the young Nottingham Methodist, these
adverse currents in his life only served to make him
long to come to nearer grips with the lot of the un-
fortunate,

Then the Methodist controversies of the hour helped
to develop the spirit of protest within him. The
rancour of Methodism during the Reform agitation
had, as we have already observed, disappointed him.
He was intolerant of controversy. He is to this day.
This partly explains why he has abstained from
discussing such subjects as the limitation of the drink



64 GENERAL BOOTH

traffic. He has his own views on that question, which
are opportunist rather than reformatory.

In this he differs from his late wife. She was for no
compromise. With her, drink was of the Devil, and
every public house a manufactory of sedition, murder,
rapine, and every other form of evil. She would, she
once declared, hoist a black flag on the chimney of
every brewery and drinking-saloon in the land, as a sign
of the death-distilling poison from the sale of which
their proprietors gathered their ill-gotten gains. Not
so William Booth, the practical man of affairs. You
cannot make water run uphill or a nation sober by
Act of Parliament.

This is by the way, however, and only to point out
that in the making of the first General of the Salvation
Army, who must be more or less a model for all others
who shall come after him, his arbitrary characteristics
were strengthened by his social environment.

His self-assertiveness was dramatically displayed
in his first attempt to study systematic theology,
In 1854 he was urged to stop evangelising for a time,
and qualify in the ordinary way for the ministry by
submitting to a well -mapped -out course of study.
He reluctantly consented ; he had lost all faith in the
colleges of the Connexion as a training-ground for a
zealous ministry. His future wife was of the opinion
that eventually the gain of a carefully digested study of
theology, philosophy, and Church history would be
advantageous to Mr. Booth, and that decided him.
But he stumbled at the first attempt to master the
Greek verb not that the actual learning presented any



THE VALUE OF GREEK AND LATIN 65

serious obstacle to him but he failed to appreciate
the relation of Greek to the salvation of the people. " I
did not see it then, and I do not see it now," he will tell
you, as a man who speaks with some authority.
" What advantage has Greek been to me in my efforts
to solve the problem of arresting the attention of the
masses to the Gospel ? "

To sharpen his point, he tells this story :

" An old member of the Christian Mission was given
to express her feelings rather frequently and loudly
in the meetings. One day she was more boisterous
than usual. At the end of the service a rich, pompous,
and college-educated man approached her, and in a
disdainful and patronising air observed, ' Your
interruptions disturb me. I am studying the work and
I need quiet. Are you familiar with the Scriptures ? '
The happy soul made no answer.

" The learned man went on : ' Can you, for example,
read the Lord's Prayer in Latin, which we must do in
order to see the beauty of its petitions ? '

"The good woman gave him his answer: 'No, sir,
but I can say, " Thank God, I am saved ! " in
English ! ' "

The General has no superstitious veneration for
education unless it is conducive to utilitarian ends.
The Free Libraries, for instance, are in his opinion far
from being a gain to society.

He relates this story of a Swedish professor who was
present at a meeting of the Army, in Upsala I think.
It would appear that he remained to the " after "
meeting that is, the latter part of a Salvation service,



66 GENERAL BOOTH

in which personal efforts are made to induce the
unregenerate portion of the people to decide for Christ,
and kneel at a penitent bench in front of the stage
and there pray for the forgiveness of sin. Throughout
the meeting sergeants or " fishers for souls," as they are
described, speak to one here and another there, just
as they are led to do so by the signs of concern on the
faces of the people, from which they conclude that
they are anxious to be saved.

On this occasion a woman " fisher " thought she
saw signs of spiritual unrest printed on the face of an
elderly gentleman, and she approached him with the
usual interrogation :

" Are you saved, sir ? "

The old man's face underwent an immediate change
of expression and colour.

" How dare you ? Do you know to whom you are
speaking ? Do you know who I am ? "

The Salvation lass did not.

" I am," he continued, placing strong emphasis
upon each word, " the professor of therapeutics at the
University ! "

The girl for a moment looked astonished and then
pitiful.

" Oh, sir," she pleaded, " the dear Lord can save the
chief of sinners ! "

General Booth is no fetish-worshipper of the great
civilising fulcrum of the age. Nevertheless, in that
ordinance of self-denial, the study of theology, he
might have conquered his prejudices but for the book
which his professor ordered him to thoroughly master.



HAS NO USE FOR THEOLOGY 67

To his amazement William Booth discovered that
it was one sustained argument in favour of Calvinism,
and he turned from it at once as if it had been deadly
poison. He lifted the treacherous thing, and with
Lutheran-like rage threw it against the wall, solilo-
quising, " I would sooner starve than preach such God-
dishonouring theories as that so many people were
predestined from all eternity to be saved and damned."
And in this way ended the first and only effort on his
part to study theology as laid down by the Church.

Shortly after he settled down to the work of the
ministry of the Methodist New Connexion, when he
had not the opportunity he would describe it as a
temptation to study theology, though, by the way,
the training of officers for the Salvation Army is
attended with, among other things, the study of a
most exhaustive curriculum, including an examination
upon theology as he, General Booth, has outlined it
for the candidates for officership in his Army.

In another sense, there was no " settling down " to
the regular work of a Methodist minister. Mr. Booth,
as such, was as unconventional as he was as an evan-
gelist. An old member of one of his Churches at
Gateshead thus described William Booth as a
minister :

" He was very popular, and he filled the chapel,
though he was always in trouble of some kind. He
did not get on with his office-bearers until he mastered
them or got rid of them then things went forward all
right.

" Everyone loved Mrs. Booth, she was so sweet and



68 GENERAL BOOTH

beautiful, and we liked Mr. Booth, though some did not
see eye to eye with him on many points. He was more
fitted to fill a church than to feed it. He drew crowds
by the style of his preaching. He used to do what we
call in the North ' rant a deal.' I have seen him on a
Sunday night draw a picture of a soul going down to
the burning pit. His mannerisms in the pulpit were
such that he could almost make you see what he was
describing. Once I heard him preach on a shipwreck,
suggested, I think, by the foundering of a vessel just
outside the bar at South Shields. The chapel was
packed in every part, and Mr. Booth was unusually in
earnest. He pictured the ship being thought out,
planned, built, equipped, and sent to sea. Then he
stopped and made a comparison between the ship and
a man's life. There was a defect in Mr. Booth's
imaginary vessel, as there is in human nature. The
vessel was caught in a storm, and owing to this defect,
was driven among the breakers and crushed among the
rocks. As Booth imagined the wreck, with the waves
dashing over her, the crew clinging to the rigging and
crying for help, people were moved.

" Some sighed, some wept, some cried, e Oh, God ! '
" Then the lifeboat appeared on the situation. There
were cheers as first one and then another of the
mariners were rescued ; William Booth almost jumped
out of his pulpit, he waved his handkerchief and
shouted, ' The Lifeboat is Christ. He is in this chapel
to-night to save you, you, you ! You are among the
breakers of sin. See, another wave is coming ! Afflic-
tion is coming, loss is coming, death is coming. How
will you do then ? '

" And he leant over the side of the pulpit and pictured
once again the crew being saved, and asked how many
that night would jump into his spiritual lifeboat. The



A REBEL 6$

perspiration rolled down his face, and as he descended
from the pulpit and gave out a hymn very few people
rushed to the doors. The fear of God and death and
disaster was put into their souls, and many came to
the communion-rail to be prayed with. Mr. Booth
was a man on fire for the salvation of souls, and
if he could not win them one way he would try
another."

^ Another and even more dramatic evidence of the
rebel in the General was forthcoming when he and Mrs.
Booth refused, or rather defied, the vote of the Con-
ference that required their return to circuit work, after
having had a run of success as a Connexional evan-
gelist. We have already commented upon that, in the
making of our modern Catherine of Siena. So far
as the circumstances influenced the General, they
brought him a step nearer to the assumption of the
role of a militant evangelist. He felt, with the breath
of liberty which he drew when he parted from the
Conference, that in future he would be responsible alone

^ to his God and to his conscience. He could go where
" he chose and do whatever was right in his own eyes.
It is true that he knew not what turn to take, and he
had no real friend who would encourage him to pursue
his evangelistic crusade ; but he was free ! free of the
domination of an ecclesiasticism that throttled in-



Online LibraryA M NicolGeneral Booth and the Salvation Army → online text (page 5 of 25)