The Army finds itself already, and every year seems more and more likely to find itself, the only firm and unalterable witness to the truth of Christ and of His redeeming work in many neighbourhoods and districts, among them even some wide stretches of Christian territory. And the times can only bring upon us, it seems to me, more and more the scrutiny of all who wish to know whether the declarations of the Scriptures as to God’s work in men are or are not reliable. This, then, however melancholy the reflection may be—and to me it is in some aspects melancholy indeed—assures to us a future of far wider importance and influence than any we have dreamed of in the past.
Our strength, as your book eloquently shows, in dealing with the deepest sunken, the forgotten, the outcasts of society, the pariahs and lepers of modern life; has ever been our absolute certainty with regard to Christ’s love and power to help them. How much greater must of necessity be the value and influence of our testimony where the very existence of Christ and His salvation becomes a matter of doubt and dispute! Here, at any rate, is one reason which leads me to believe that the Salvation Army has before it a future of the highest moment to the world.
In relation to other religious bodies, our position is marvellously altered from the time when they nearly all, if not quite all, denounced us.
I do not think that any of the Churches in any part of the world do this now, although no doubt individuals here and there are still bitterly hostile to us. In the United States and in many of the British Colonies the Churches welcome our help, and generally speak well of our work; and even many Roman Catholic leaders, as well as authorities of the Jewish faith, may be included in this statement. On the Continent there are signs that they are slowly turning the same way.
Now, I confidently expect a steady extension of this feeling towards us as the Churches come more and more to recognize that we not only do not attack them, but that we are actually auxiliaries to their forces, not only gaining our audiences and recruits from those who are outside their ministrations, but even serving them by doing work for their adherents which for a variety of reasons they find it very difficult, if not impossible, to accomplish themselves.
At the same time it would be a mistake to think that we have any desire to adopt any of their methods or ceremonials. We keep everywhere to our simple and non-ecclesiastical habits, and while we certainly have some very significant and impressive ceremonials of our own, the way our buildings are fitted, the style of our songs and music, and the character of our prayers and public talking are everywhere entirely distinctive, and are nowhere in any danger of coming into serious competition with the worship adopted by the Churches.