A TEACHABLE PROPHET.
Another extraordinary characteristic of the book is its combination of supreme humility with what the enemy might describe as overweening arrogance. The General’s confidence in himself and his men is superb. Not Hildebrand in the height of his power, or Mahommed, at the moment when he was launching the armies which offered to the world Islam or the sword, showed himself more supremely possessed with the confidence of his providential mission than does General Booth in his book. “For this end was I created, to this work was I called, all my life has been a preparation to fit me for its accomplishment.” While thus speaking with the confidence of a man who feels himself charged with a divine mission, General Booth displays a humility and a teachableness that is as beautiful as it is rare. Over and over again he deplores his lack of knowledge and the insufficiency of his experience, and admits that his most elaborate proposals may be vitiated by some flaw or some defect which will make itself only too apparent when they get into action. So far from being determined to thrust his scheme as a panacea down the throats of reluctant humanity he appeals to all those who may differ from him not to stand idly cavilling at his proposals, but to produce something better of their own, assuring them that he will be only too good to carry out the best of his ability any scheme which will do more for the benefit of the lapsed classes than his own.
General Booth shows himself in the capacity of a bold and shifty mariner who has been ordered to take a ship filled with precious cargo across a stormy and rock-strewn ocean to a distant port. Quicksands abound, cross currents continually threaten to carry the ship from her course, the wind shifts from point to point, now rising to a hurricane and then dying away to a dead calm. But alike by night and day, whether the sky be black with clouds, or bright with radiant sunshine, in the teeth of the wind or in a favourable gale, he presses forward to his distant haven. He will tack to the right or to the left, availing himself to the utmost of every favourable current and every passing breeze, supremely indifferent to all accusations of inconsistency, or of deviating from the straight line from the port which he left to the port for which he is bound, if so he can get the quicker and the more safely to his goal. Hitherto General Booth had practically been in the condition of a Captain who relied solely on his boilers to make his voyage. “Get up steam, make the heart right, keep the furnace fires going, and drive ahead through the darkness regardless of a lowering tempest or of the swift rushing current which sweeps you from your course.” This book proclaims his decision in favour of adopting a less reckless and more practical mode of navigation. While his reliance is still placed on the inner central fire he will not disdain to utilise the currents, the tides, and the winds which will make it easier for his straining boilers and untiring screw to forge its way across the sea.