Guardians of the Covenant
Sixty-One Years Ago
A charge to the cadets of the Guardians of the Covenant Session commissioned in Royal Albert Hall, May 3, 1937. It was General Evangeline Booth’s expressed desire “that it should be regarded by the cadets of the 1937-38 sessions everywhere as addressed equally to each.”
My Dear Cadets:
This is a great day in your history. I think–apart from the day upon which there dawned the morning of your salvation–this is the greatest day that will ever come to you, for it is the day upon which you pass through the gates of your officership in the worldwide Salvation Army. It is the day when you push off from the shores of the loving and protecting harbor of the Training College upon the seas of service over which you must navigate your own voyage.
I remember when this day came to me. My commission was handed to me by my father. My recollection of the occasion is so vivid that my whole being thrills as I think upon it. My fingers never felt quite the same holding anything before, nor have they since, as when I took that simple but momentous document from his dear hand. They felt as though they entwined around something of heaven as well as earth, of eternity as well as time.
And so I came to take up the responsibility of my first independent command. It was a forlorn hope in the slums, but it seemed to me so large–so important! A vision of the little place rises before my eyes now; the small dingy room–the bare board floor, the bedstead–and two chairs! Holding the commission with my two hands over my rapidly pulsating heart, I prayed. No, it was not a prayer. It was an impassioned plea! It was not a request. It was an importunate demand! It was not the expression of a divine hope. It was the declaration of an all dominating faith! It was not a sweet and calm entreaty. It was a stormy outpouring in which throbbed the energy of my whole being! It was a call to the Throne of God!
I did not ask alone for love that I might enfold all the earth in blessing; not alone for grace that in my life might be exemplified all the beatitudes; not alone for patience that I might bear and forbear; not alone for triumph that over the fierce conflicts of my battlefields I might hear the shout of triumph; not alone even for the crowded Penitent Forms for which my soul thirsted. My impassioned entreaty was that I might be kept. Kept strong, kept brave, kept faithful, kept true. Kept! Kept from making shipwreck, so that at the end I might be saved. Cadets! This was my prayer, that, having sworn to my own hurt, I should change not!
Seasons of spiritual import and of historic interest have come to me since then: battles hard and desperate, their issues fraught with momentous importance to The Salvation Army; victories, the ringing cheers of which can never be forgotten. But no season stands out more vividly in my memory, more precious in its recollections, more complete in its consecration, or more desperate in its demanding faith, than that day.
Now this day has come to you; the day upon which you receive your first commission for the sacred and important position of an officer in The Salvation Army. In the name of him who has called you to the office; by the heroic warfare and blameless example of a multitude of officers of our worldwide Army who have gone before you; by the thousand toils and hopes and expectations of the Principal and staff of the training college; by ten thousand prayers of loved ones–mothers, fathers–who sent you forth; by the desperate needs and sorrow and sins of the people who await our ministry, I charge you, be faithful Guardians of the Covenant into which you have entered.
I commission you for the one great mission to which you were called: to preach Christ and him crucified! In this day of attack upon the Christian faith; this day of seductive and pernicious teaching; this day of contradiction of the Word of God; this day of the rebuttal of the story of Bethlehem–preach him! Preach Jesus Christ!
Preach his birth. The manger, the shepherds, the wise men, the angelic announcement to the world of the nativity of the Child King. Preach his boyhood: at 12 years of age confusing and confounding the professors in the Temple. Preach him at Jacob’s well, where with exquisite tact he revealed to the poor woman her soul’s thirst and gave her the Water of Life. Preach him meeting the widow of Nain and turning her mourning into song. Preach him curing the lepers of their diseases and causing the lame to leap for joy as they threw away their crutches. Preach him with his arms around the little children, their heads upon his breast, while they look into his lovely face. Preach him in the boats of the fishermen, filling up their empty nets. Preach him gathering the poor and the sick and the troubled and the hungry, and soothing all their sorrows.
My officers-to-be, I charge you: Preach his life! Preach his death! Preach him falsely accused at the great tribunal, with pale face and silent lips! Preach him praying in the Garden. The heart agony, the bloody sweat, the “Nevertheless, not my will but thine be done!” Preach him the victim of a traitor’s diabolical plot! Preach him thrust and pushed in the crowd, the blood surging from his temples, the hardstruck cheek, the stone-bruised feet, the shoulders bent low under the Cross burden. Preach him suffering.
Preach him dying on Calvary: his broken heart, his lacerated form, suffering and sorrow heaving up against his Cross in one wrathful, foaming, gory, omnipotent surge!
Preach the Risen Christ. Conqueror of sin and death, the Savior of all who will turn to him, the all sufficient Keeper of those who put their trust in him! Christ the Redeemer! Christ the King! Christ the everlasting Word, the Son of God, the Alpha and Omega, who was and is and ever shall be.
Preach him! Preach him!
I shall pray for you. I shall trust you.