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William Booth Had a Vision, Too

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by Frances Dingman –

When William Booth married Catherine Mumford he was an ill-educated pastor of a section of the Methodist Body, a man only remarkable for the intensity of his feelings, the honesty of his nature, and the power of his oratory. He felt within himself a power to do something for the salvation of man which would add fresh glory to religion.

Though he was conscious within himself of a need for knowledge, and studied extensively with tutors, the poor, neglected inhabitants of East London made a more poignant appeal to his soul than the dignity of a theological degree.

Booth’s habit of saying that submerged people were not touched by the churches almost invariably brought the wrath of parsons upon him, but the statement was largely true.

Salvationists of the present day feel something of the power of William Booth’s personality, and understand how it was that his spirit could touch the human heart in so many lands and in almost all the varied circumstances of mortal life.William Booth wanted to win the world for God and extend the Army’s commitment to people throughout the generations.

Booth was a great preacher, and one of the greatest of preacher-makers. He spoke not only with his own voice, but through the men and women whom he selected and encouraged–often apparently the most unpromising mouthpieces–to drive home the word and the testimony. He talked of eternal truths, and set other men and women talking of them. Though he is gone, they are still heard, in every quarter of the globe.

Booth was the autocrat of all Salvationists. The first Deed Poll, drawn up in 1875, gave Booth immense and unusual power over the Mission and its members and property. He truly believed that the Army’s success depended upon each general’s selecting his successor with the absence of political infighting. As his Army grew, he saw each of his children as extensions of his arm, reaching out around the world. Time would prove that this was for the most part an unrealistic dream, as his passionate and inspired children viewed the world from their own perspectives, and three went off to do God’s work as they saw it.

He did not like to see his soldiers buying halls, because he feared that if they had permanent places of their own, they would become property-owners, pegged to one comfortable spot, instead of restless soldiers who were ready at the shortest notice to go where needed. Yet even before his death, corps buildings and headquarters were being bought or built to bring the stability without which the work could not continue.

As he drew near death, even sightless, his eyes were fixed on the white fields of harvest which were derelict humanity. The problem of the homeless obsessed him. “I want you to do more for the homeless of the world. Mind, I’m not thinking of this country only, but of all lands. The homeless women, and the homeless children. Bramwell, look after the homeless. Promise me.”

Bramwell also promised to begin the work in China. True to his word, Bramwell first sent officers to China in 1915. Once again, after terrible wars and while under an atheist regime, officers are bringing the Chinese to Christ.

It has been 86 years since Booth’s triumphal entry into heaven. Though not every detail of his vision has been realized, the work for God and man goes on in many ways that surpass his fondest dreams, and bring everlasting glory to the names of William and Catherine Booth.

Sources: God’s Soldier, by St. John Ervine; Life of General William Booth, By Harold Begbie; Echoes and Memories, by Bramwell Booth; The General Next to God, by Richard Collier.

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