And yet, perhaps, in the eyes of an unbelieving world, and a doubting Church, that was General Booth’s great offence all through life. To think of having uneducated and formerly godless people “bawling” the “mysteries of the faith” through the streets of “Christian” cities, where it had hitherto been thought inconsistent with Christian humility for any one to dare to say they really knew Him “whom to know is life eternal”! Oh, that was the root objection to all The General’s preaching and action.
And it was one of the most valuable features of his whole career that wherever he or his messengers went there came that same certainty which from the days of Bethlehem onwards Jesus Christ came to bring to every man.
“By faith we know!” If every outward manifestation of The General’s successes could be swept off the world to-morrow, this positive faith in the one Saviour would be capable of reproducing all its blessed results over again, wherever it was preserved, or renewed. Any so-called faith which gives no certainty must needs be hustled out of the way of an investigating, hurrying, wealth-seeking age. Only those who are certain that they have found the Lord can be capable of inducing others to seek and find Him.
Convictions such as we have just been reading of were bound to lead to immediate action. But it is most interesting to find that William Booth’s first regular service for Christ was not called forth by any church, but simply by the spontaneous efforts of one or two young Converts like himself. No one could be more inclined towards the use of organisation and system than he always was, and yet he always advocated an organisation so open to all, and a system so elastic, that zeal might never be repressed, but only made the most of. It is, perhaps, fortunate that we have in one of his addresses to his own young Officers the following description of the way he began to work for the Salvation of his fellow-townsmen:—
“Directly after my conversion I had a bad attack of fever, and was brought to the very edge of the grave. But God raised me up, and led me out to work for Him, after a fashion which, considering my youth and inexperience, must be pronounced remarkable. While recovering from this illness, which left me far from strong, I received a note from a companion, Will Sansom, asking me to make haste and get well again, and help him in a Mission he had started in a slum part of the town. No sooner was I able to get about than I gladly joined him.
“The Meetings we held were very remarkable for those days. We used to take out a chair into the street, and one of us mounting it would give out a hymn, which we then sang with the help of, at the most, three or four people. Then I would talk to the people, and invite them to come with us to a Meeting in one of the houses.