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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
Salvation Army, the
This new religious organization is, in some of its agencies and operations, suggestive of the reformation under Luther, and of the religious awakening under the Wesleys. Each of these great movements was so startling in its character that it commanded wide-spread attention, and excited opposition and envy on every hand. Their enemies declared that the work would soon come to naught, and that such inflammable material would soon burn itself out. But these disparaging predictions have not been fulfilled with regard to the former two efforts, nor are they likely to be realized in the case of the Salvation Army. Not designed for any merely human aggrandizement, not antagonistic to any other religious organization, it began with a burning desire in the heart of one Christian minister to "rescue the perishing "'in London. It was the privilege of the writer to hear William Booth, the general and founder of the Salvation Army, preach the gospel in a prison when he was only twenty years old, and to be an intimate personal acquaintance of his from that time to the present.
I. Origin of the Movements. —
1. William Booth was born in the town of Nottingham in the year 1829. His parents belonged to the Church of England, but at the age of fourteen he began to attend the services of the Wesleyan Methodists, then and now a large and influential body in the town. Their services had in them more life and energy than he found in the Established Church, and, having experienced a change of heart in these exercises, his affections were naturally centred where he had derived so much good; hence, though young in years, he began to attend mission and open-air services and cottage-meetings among the poor in the neglected parts of the town. He soon became all exhorter, and related at the meetings his own happy experience, persuading others to seek salvation. During the daytime he was employed at the miscellaneous store of a pawnbroker, and, there he became practically acquainted with the wants, privations, and sufferings of the poor. His natural quickness of observation and his retentive memory were used by him to advantage. In the evenings and on Sundays, while a mere youth, he began to preach short, earnest sermons, in the open air, in all weathers, inviting sinners to Christ. In 1846 when only seventeen, he was accepted as a local preacher, became zealous and useful, and his labors were much owned of God. He was then a mere stripling, tall, with long, flowing black hair, a piercing eye, and a tongue of fire. Before he was twenty he was urged to enter the Methodist ministry, but in addition to his want of theological training, the doctors told him that one year of the earnest ministerial work, to which he was occasionally called, would probably exhaust the little strength he had; and as he was not physically strong, he waited for a time to see if his health improved. In the meanwhile he was wholly engaged, partly in London and partly in Lincolnshire, as an evangelist, a work in which he took special delight.
At the age of twenty-four he was accepted as a minister on trial in the Methodist New Connection, and placed for a time under the care of the Reverend William Cooke, D.D., for theological training. Shortly afterwards, in 1854, their society at Giernsey invited him to raise their cause, then in a low condition, and at the same time improve his own health in their mild and genial atmosphere. At the first Sunday service he held there thirty persons were converted, and within a month three hundred were added to the church membership. He had to return to London, but the news of his success quickly spread through the. Connection, and he soon afterwards had invitations to ten circuits, to hold special services for a week or two in each. The conference that year sent him out as an evangelist, the results of which may be judged by the returns from a few places: at Hanley, Staffordshire, 400 conversions; at Newcastle, in one week, 290; at Sheffield, in four weeks, over 400; at Chester, several hundred. Fifteen of these converts are known to have become ordained ministers of the gospel.
2. Jealousy among a few senior preachers, who could not command such success, obliged him to settle down in a circuit, and he spent three years (1857-59) at Gateshead-on-Tyne, where, by his labors, the membership was trebled. He was next sent to Newcastle, with the same result, having in the meantime married Catharine Mumford, daughter of Mr. J. Mumford, a good London Methodist; and his young wife worked earnestly and lovingly with him. Her piety, zeal, discretion, and ability entitle her to take rank with the late Mrs. Phoebe Palmer, of New York, as one of the specially called and gifted of God to do a great work for him in the world and in the church. Seeing how God was working by Mr. Booth among a class of people seldom reached by the ordinary minister, and feeling the burden of souls pressing upon him, he made a most earnest appeal to the Liverpool Conference of 1861 to again appoint him as an evangelist; and his appeal. worthy of Dr. Coke or George Whitefield, was supported for a while by an equally earnest appeal made by Mrs. Booth from the gallery of the chapel. Some of the older preachers were shocked by a woman addressing the conference, and she was silenced. The conference made a great mistake in not accepting Mr. Booth's services as an evangelist: had they done so, their membership might have been doubled in ten years; instead of which, after the lapse of a quarter of a century, their membership is less today than it was then, and does not number thirty thousand after the lapse of nearly ninety years. Mr. Booth resigned his connection with the body, and resolved to await the openings of Providence; without employment, home, or income, he and his devoted wife looked alone to God for guidance, and it soon came.
Visiting Cornwall, he found many earnest Methodists in hearty sympathy with the yearnings of his heart. Mrs. Booth now fully shared his labors, herself preaching and holding revival services both on the Sabbath and on week days. In this way they spent two years as missionaries, in various localities, for three or four weeks each. Fishermen and tin miners came to their services by thousands, whole neighborhoods were stirred all round, the claims of religion became paramount, and men by scores left their work to seek divine mercy. The knowledge of these gracious outpourings of the Holy Spirit spread throughout the country. One chapel was kept open from daylight in the morning till midnight for a whole week. The result of such manifestations awakened general interest in the work, and invitations for the services of Mr. and Mrs. Booth reached them from all parts of England and Wales. These occupied them both for two years more, and in June 1865, they came to London.
Providentially they were directed to the East End, a locality where, within the limits of half a mile, eighteen thousand persons, men and women, were counted entering drinking-saloons on one Sunday. There, on a heap of refuse, Mr. Booth commenced the work which has developed into the great Christian army known the world over. A small pocket Bible and hymn-book were his only weapons. In 1883 Mrs. Booth, in writing of herself and Mr. Booth in 1865, remarks: "He left a happy and prosperous, ministerial career, gave up all that is commonly regarded as valuable in life, came but without any human encouragement or guarantees, and devoted himself to labor among the neglected masses, with no thought beyond that of a local work in the east of London. We surrendered home, income, every friend we had in the world, save my parents [whom they nourished in old age], with four little children under five years old, to trust only in God. During the ten years following, we were groping our way out of the conventionalism in which we had been trained, and often reluctantly following the pillar of cloud by which God was leading us. We tried committees, conferences, and all sorts of governments, showing how far we were wrong till the grand military idea was revealed to us."
Not much consideration was required to convince Mr. Booth that in East London there was labor for a man's life, however earnest and long-lived he might be and having his sympathies strongly drawn towards the dense mass of godless people in the streets day and night, he gave up invitations to labor in the provinces to devote himself fully to the teeming population of Whitechapel and its surroundings. In ten or fifteen minutes he would gather a congregation of a thousand people, to whom he preached daily the plain gospel in the old-fashioned manner. He was a Methodist to the backbone, and in all his addresses he taught and enforced the necessity of repentance, faith, and holiness. God wonderfully owned the word preached; its effects had been witnessed in Cornwall and other parts, and it was soon found that conversions followed the preaching in London. As there was no place in which to gather the people, Mr. John Eason, an old Methodist, lent Mr. Booth a preaching tent which he had long used on London Fields. Crowds gathered there, many were saved, and these soon began to be useful in their own localities, each one asking himself, after he had found Jesus,
"What shall I do to make it known What Thou for all mankind hast done?" Mr. Booth prepared a cheap hymn-book, which was sold freely at all the meetings, and thousands were bought and read by the new converts. These. one after another, began to speak of the blessings they had received, and their testimony deepened and intensified the general interest in the services; so that the companions of these poor men, now made rich by faith, began to think there was something in the preaching which had completely changed very bad persons, and made them lovers of home, of God, and of their fellow-creatures. The storms of autumn scattered the tent in which they found shelter, but the work went on in the open air. As winter approached, shelter was required, and one of the lowest of the many drinking-saloons, a very den of infamy, was secured, and converted into a mission hall and book-store, for the sale of hymns, tracts, and such literature as would be suitable to young converts brought up in utter ignorance of religion. Next a large dancing-saloon was taken and used in the same way. Both these places were soon filled by eager listeners, services being held on the ground-floor and the first-floor simultaneously, the stairs and passages crowded at nearly, every service by the neglected poor, who saw in these agencies and ministrations the means of rescuing themselves-from sin, misery, and poverty. Believing in the advantages of labor, and in the truth of Mr. Wesley's adage, "All at work and always at work," Mr. Booth found employment for many of the converts in extending the mission, and it was soon manifest that they were gradually rising in the moral and social scale. Converts increased, people by thousands attended the exercises, and in less than a year Mr. Booth hired a large theatre for services on Sunday, which proved attractive to the outcast. Crowds gathered there, young and old, most of whom had lived like heathen, with no knowledge of God or regard for his laws. Drunlkards became sober, swearers began to pray, those who had lived by stealing stole no more, scores of old and forgotten debts were paid, multitudes of women ere rescued from ruin, and appeals now came to Mr. Booth to open new missions at Bethnal Green, Limehouse, Poplar, Canning Town, Croydon, Norwood, and other places; in these localities the applicants were directed to procure a room, and speakers were sent to hold services. It is amusing to survey, at this time, the variety of spots used for the new efforts, many of which the writer personally visited at the time — a club- room, a cellar, a shed, a railway arch, behind a pigeon-shop, an old factory, a schoolroom, a cottage — so eager were the poor people to get the gospel preached to them. They had not been accustomed to churches or chapels; they knew little about the Bible, and parsons they thought their greatest enemies. They belonged to the refuse of mankind — navvies, sailors, gypsies, infidels, scoffers, drunkards, thieves, dog-fanciers, pigeonkeepers; men, women, and children, the roughest, wildest, most ignorant and degraded met together, and on them the full power of the gospel was manifested in their conversion and after-life. Persons from all these classes stood forth and openly declared what the grace of God had done for them, then appealing to their old companions in sin as to the truth of their testimony.
While Mr. Booth was thus evangelizing the masses, his wife was engaged in holding meetings in many of the largest halls and most aristocratic centres in the kingdom. At Hastings, Margate, Brighton, and many other places, crowds of the middle and upper classes attended her services, and numbers, whose interest and sympathy were enlisted, became friends and helpers in the establishment of missions for the working classes on the plans already described. The motto of Mrs. Booth's life seemed to be, "I must be about my Father's business." While thus occupied in public work, her family was not neglected; for she tells us that every hour which was not spent in public work was sacredly devoted to her children, who were mainly educated at home, and trained on the principles laid down in a book entitled The Training of Children, recently written by her husband. How completely this task was accomplished is manifest from the fact that all their children were converted early in life and all who are old enough are doing useful and important labor in the Salvation Army. The work spread faster than Mr. Booth's family could keep pace with it, and their converts carried the holy fire with them into their homes; and thus began fresh missions at Old Ford, Stoke Newington, Shoreditch, Tottenham, Mill Wall, and other parts in and around London, progress being reported monthly in a new periodical which bore the title of Christian Mission Magazine.
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Salvation Army, the'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/s/salvation-army-the.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.