It was Mr. Bramwell Booth, with his young friend Mr. Railton abetting him, who, discontented with the dullness and conservatism of the Christian Mission, drove the Reverend William Booth, an ex-Methodist minister preaching repentance in the slums, to fling restraint of every kind to the winds and to go in for religion as if it were indeed the only thing in the world that counted. William Booth at that time was forty-nine years of age.
Again, it was Mr. Bramwell Booth, working behind the scenes and pulling all the strings, who edged his father away from concluding an alliance with the Church of England in the early eighties. Archbishop Benson was anxious to conclude that alliance, on terms. The terms did not seem altogether onerous to the old General, who was rather fond of meeting dignitaries. But Mr. Bramwell Booth would hear of no concession which weakened the Army’s authority in the slums, and which would also eventually weaken its authority in the world. He refused to acknowledge any service or rite of the Church as essential to the salvation of men. If the Lord’s Supper were essential the Army would have it; but the Army had proved that no other power was necessary to the working of miracles in the souls of men beyond the direct mercy of God acting on the centre of true penitence. He was the uncompromising protagonist of conversion, and his father came to agree with him.
Neither the old General nor his inspired wife, admirable as revivalists, had the true fire of fanaticism in their blood. They were too warm-hearted. That strange unearthly fire burns only to its whitest heat, perhaps, in veins which are cold and minds which are hard. It does not easily make its home in benevolent and philanthropic natures, certainly never in purely sentimental natures. I think its opening is made not by love but by hatred. A man may love God with all his heart, all his mind, and all his soul, without feeling the spur of fanaticism in his blood. But let him hate sin with only a part of his heart, mind, and soul, and he becomes a fanatic. His hatred will grow till it consumes his whole being.
One need not be long in the company of General Bramwell Booth to discover that he has two distinct and separate manners, and that neither expresses the whole truth of his rational life. At one moment he is full of cheerful good sense, the very incarnation of jocular heartiness, a bluff, laughing, rallying, chafing, and tolerant good fellow, overflowing with the milk of human kindness, oozing with the honey of social sweetness. At the next moment, however, the voice sinks suddenly to the key of what Father Knox, I am afraid, would call unctimoniousness, the eyelids flutter like the wings of a butterfly, the whole plump pendulous face appears to vibrate with emotion, the body becomes stiff with feeling, the lips depressed with tragedy, and the dark eyes shine with the suppressed tears of an unimaginable pathos.