In his tenth year, when they settled in London, and began their real life work, he cannot but have partaken fully of the satisfaction this gave to them, whilst they were, as yet, buried amidst the mass of East-End misery. It was shortly before the foundation of the Work that he was converted at one of his mother’s own Meetings. The shrinking from publicity, which seems an essential part of every conscientious person, held him long back from resolving to become one of their Officers. But during all the years between his being saved and that great decision, he was constantly helping, first in Children’s Meetings, and then in office work, so that at twenty-one he was already a very experienced man, both in the work of saving souls, and in much of the business management for which a great Movement calls.
When I first saw him at seventeen, he was still studying; but he had been, during the previous eighteen months of the General’s illness and absence, his mother’s mainstay in the managing both the public and the office work of “The Christian Mission,” and the Secretary and, largely, manager of a set of soup kitchens, the precursors, in some ways, of our present Social Wing. For all this to be possible to a lad of seventeen, of delicate health, may give some little indication of the faculties with which God had endowed him.
It was not, however, till five years later, when he had fully conquered his own taste for a medical career that he gave himself fully to the War. Alone, or with one of his sisters, he visited the towns where many of our largest Corps were being raised, holding Meetings in theatres and other popular resorts, so that he gained first-hand all the experiences of Officers, both in the pioneering days and in the after years of struggle against all manner of difficulty, when every sort of problem as to individuals, and Corps, had to be dealt with from hour to hour.
This much to explain how it was possible for a man so young to become at twenty-five the worthy and capable Chief of the Staff of an Army already at work in both hemispheres and on both sides of the world. The reader will also be able to understand how the Chief, travelling by night as often as by day, could visit the General in the midst of any of his Campaigns, and in the course of a brief journey from city to city, or between night and morning confer fully with him, and take decisions upon matters that could not await even the delay of a mail.
The comfort to The General, as he often testified, of the continual faithful service of this slave of a son was one of the most invaluable forces of his life. Whilst, on the one side we may see in such self-renouncing abandonment a certificate to and evidence of the nature of The General’s own life, we must read in it, at the same time, some part of the explanation of his boundless activities and influence.
For the Chief of those days, The General of these, to have gone to and come away from his father’s daily scenes of triumph without getting the slightest appetite himself for public displays, or yielding in the slightest to the craving after human support or encouragement, to turn him aside from the humdrum of duty, is one proof of those gracious evidences of God’s saving and keeping power with which the history of The Salvation Army abounds.