Nothing has more astonished me, amongst all the torrents of eulogy passed upon The General and his Army since his death, than the almost invariable silence amongst Christian as well as secular papers about these Holiness Meetings, and that teaching of Holiness which were the root and secret of all the success of The Army.
Any capable schoolmaster might compile volumes of rules; but how to get them obeyed is the question. How could it be possible to settle every question of who shall be the greatest in an Army formed largely of the most independent and unruly elements, if there were no superhuman power that could destroy the foundations of envy and ill-feeling, and fill hearts, once wide apart, with the humble love that can prefer others’ honour before one’s own?
The organisation of The Army has been, and is, in all countries a steady, careful development. But it has only been made possible by the continual maintenance of a complete confidence in God for the needed supplies of wisdom and grace to enable each to submit to others for Christ’s sake, to bear and forbear for the good of the whole Army, seeking ever to learn to do better, and yet being willing to be forgotten, and even to be undervalued, misunderstood, and ill-treated by a hasty or unjust superior, for Christ’s sake.
General Booth, himself, did not always appear the most patient and kindly of leaders. He would have been the first to admit how he wounded tender hearts, and, perhaps, even repulsed some who could have been of greater helpfulness to him had he been able to endure more patiently their slowness and timidity.
But, conscious as he was of his own defects, he especially rejoiced when his son and successor began to shine as a Holiness teacher, whose weekly Meetings at Whitechapel became a power that was felt all over the world.
The teaching and enjoyment of this great blessing, with all the deliverance from self-seeking and pride which it brings, has made it possible to go on imposing more and more of regulation and discipline on all sorts of men and women without either souring their spirit or transforming The Army’s system into mere machinery. The Army will go on to carry out its Founder’s purpose better and better the more it learns how to sit constantly at the feet of the one great Master.
We have seen Mr. Booth beginning on the spot, now marked with a stone, near the site of “The Vine” public-house (since happily pulled down, the site being turned into a public garden) on July 5, 1865, scrambling through the first six years’ difficulties until he marched the beginnings of an Army of saved drunkards, infidels, and sinners into a People’s Market, transformed into a public Hall and Headquarters.
He called all that “The Christian Mission,” with only a slowly dawning consciousness that it was an Army, for six years more.