Fight Against Formality
The Army’s invariable principle of avoiding even the appearance of attacking any other association of religionists, or their ideas or practices, renders it difficult to explain fully either why William Booth became the regular minister of a church, or why he gave up that position; and yet he has himself told us sufficient to demonstrate at one stroke not only the entire absence of hostility in his mind, but the absolute separateness of his way of thinking from that which so generally prevails.
The enthusiastic welcome given to The General wherever he went, by the clergy of almost every Church indicates that he had generally convinced them that he had no thought of attacking them or their Churches, even when he most heartily expressed his thankfulness to God for having been able to escape from all those trammels of tradition and form which would have made his great life-work, for all nations, impossible. And I think there are few who would nowadays question that his life, teaching, and example all tended greatly to modify many of the Church formalities of the past.
“Just before leaving Lincolnshire,” he says, “I had been lifted up to a higher plane of the daily round of my beloved work than I had experienced before. Oh, the stagnation into which I had settled down, the contentment of my mind with the love offered me at every turn by the people! I still aimed at the Salvation of the unconverted and the spiritual advance of my people, and still fought for these results. Indeed, I never fell below that. And yet if the After-Meeting was well attended, and if one or two Penitents responded, I was content, and satisfied myself with that hackneyed excuse for so much unfruitful work, that I had ‘sown the seed.’ Having cast my bread on the waters, I persuaded myself that I must hope for its being found by and by.
“But I heard of a Rev. Richard Poole who was moving about the country, and the stories told me of the results attending his services had aroused in me memories of the years gone by, when I thought little and cared less about the acceptability of my own performances, so long as I could drag the people from the jaws of Hell.
“I resolved to go and hear him. I found him at the house of a friend before the Meeting, comparatively quiet. How I watched him! But when I had heard him preach from the text, ’Said I not unto thee, that if thou wouldst believe, thou shouldst see the salvation of God,’ and had observed the blessed results, I went to my own chamber—I remember that it was over a baker’s shop—and resolved that, regardless of man’s opinions, and my own gain or position, I would ever seek the one thing.
“Whilst kneeling in that room, there came into my soul a fresh realisation of the greatness of the opportunity before me of leading