Salvation Army Scraps (part two. Part one here)
It is not widely known that the early Salvation Army was, by any standards, pretty charismatic. It’s a bit awkward. Their meetings seem to be, frankly, a little out there. But, as with many other movements that in reality created powerful evangelistic and missional communities, their claim was that the effects were nothing but the work of the same Holy Spirit that empowered the early church.[i]
Humphrey Wallis: Not only were there prostrations, but numerous cases of physical healing. The saved railway guard and Salvation Army Officer, James Dowdle, with his wife, had almost embarrassing cures occur during their services. One, a lame girl, was healed, and her father, to whom the news was immediately taken by an alarmed spectator, said, ‘Walking and cured in The Salvation Army is she? I’ll cure her of that blasphemous nonsense,’ took his stick and came to thrash her. On seeing his daughter, who had limped in distortion and pain for years, straight and joyous, her crutches carried by a woman behind her, the stick fell from his hand, and he could do nothing but marvel. [ii]
Elijah Cadman on these phenomena: These “Fits” and the bodily cures were nothing to do with any of us. They were manifestations of the power of God. We could not say when, where, or how they would occur, and we certainly did not know how God worked – we only saw them as signs of His presence. [ii]
Healings and Levi-whaaat?!?
Bramwell Booth: Instances of levitation also took place in our services, and well authenticated stories came before me from time to time. Of these, however, I do not write now, except to say that I cannot doubt that everything about them was open and true. Nor can I dwell at any length upon equally well authenticated instances of Divine healing. The Army has ever had in its ranks in various parts of the world a number of people unquestionably possessed of some kind of gift of healing. If extravagances have gathered round the subject in some quarters, they ought not to be permitted to obscure the central fact, which is that the healing of the sick by special immediate Divine interposition, in answer to prayer and faith, has undoubtedly occurred. Surely there is nothing surprising in this. On the contrary, it would have been surprising had it been otherwise. [iii]
Extreme and overpowering joy, ecstasy
In the United States, in the earlier days, we had a record of somewhat similar experiences, except that there they generally took the form of extreme joy. One of the peculiarities of the prostrations and trances and the like in Europe has been the great solemnity which has nearly always marked their occurrence, no matter whether they concerned those who were outside or inside The Army. But in the United States it was rather the other way about. In these demonstrations of the Spirit, the reality of which no one would challenge who knew what had really happened, there was an accompaniment of overpowering joy, exhibited in singing, and sometimes in a disposition to dance, or to remain for a long period in a kind of ecstasy. The practical effects, however – and it is by their practical effects that all these things must be judged – were very much the same there as elsewhere. [iv]
[i] See Acts 2; the Moravians, the Methodists.
[ii] Humphrey Wallis, The Happy Warrior (London: Salvationist Publishing, 1928), p.109, 111
[iii] Bramwell Booth, Echoes and Memories (London: Hodder and Stoughton 1925), p56-57
[iv] ibid. p58
© 2018 Lex Loizides / Church History Review