What are you living for? by William Booth

William Booth relaxing

Salvation Army scraps (part three)
The modern (post-modern, post-post-modern) quest for purpose continues to generate a myriad of insightful seminars, ‘life-coaches’, book deals, promo guest appearances, wellness plans and disciplines. Many seem to benefit from these moments, and even Christians make their selections from the wisdom buffet and serve up motivational quotes on social media. All well and good. But for the Christian, is there not already in place, already embedded in the very nature of the thing, a driving, momentous cause propelling them forward?
A little decoration, a little flourish here and there, is no doubt good if you have the main structure in place, but if you’re trying to live on flourishes instead of building on a solid foundation you may one day be shattered by a storm. Or end up merely numb, desperately trying to find excitement surrounded by a seemingly inexhaustible collection of useless trinkets.
Leaders like William Booth stir us because they bring us back to the essential stuff. We need that. I really am trying to finish this series on Booth and the Salvation Army with this post of quotes, the first of which states Christian purpose powerfully.

Booth on Purpose in Life
‘What are you living for? What is the deep secret purpose that controls and fashions your existence? What do you eat and drink for? What is the end of your marrying and giving in marriage – your money-making and toilings and plannings? Is it the salvation of souls, the overthrow of the kingdom of evil and the setting up of the kingdom of God? I am not censorious. If I know my own heart, it is full of yearning for the happiness of all men…[but] I must push this question. Have you the assurance that the ruling passion of your life is the same as that which brought Christ to the manger, led Him to fight the foul fiend of Hell in the wilderness, bore Him onward on the back of suffering and tears and ignominy and shame, sustained Him in drinking the cup of anguish and enduring the baptism of blood, bore Him through Gethsemane, nailed Him to the Cross of Calvary and enabled Him in triumph to open the gate of the Kingdom? Is that what you are living for? If not, you may be religious – a very proper person amongst religionists – but I don’t see how you can be a Christian.’ [i]

Booth in 1911 (the year before his death): ‘The helping of the wretched, and the saving them out of the earthly, hellish conditions in which such multitudes live, and the saving of souls of the people in larger numbers, and the organizing them when they are saved for still further victories, is the dream of almost every hour of my life.’ [ii]

Booth on the need for courageous leadership
‘Heroism is, comparatively speaking, out of fashion here. In fact, there is no call for it. The milk-and-water type of man, who neither creates enthusiasm nor rouses opposition, is a model leader of modern religion. Nothing is to be done that is contrary to the taste or liking of anybody else.’ [iii]

William Booth


The Salvation Army and women’s rights

Woman has won her place in The Army. She has won a very wonderful place in the world by means of The Army. It may be worth while to remark here that, though seldom acknowledged, there is little doubt that the women of The Army have played a part in the general emancipation of woman which we see to be going on in the Western nations. In the political struggle, The Army, of course, has taken no part, but in the higher realms of the fight, the hand of the Salvation woman, both Officer and Soldier, has helped to carry the banner to victory. The women who marched at the head of the little bands of despised Salvationists in years gone by were accustoming the public mind to the spectacle of woman in command, of woman taking an active unshrinking share in public duty, and overcoming by the grace of God her supposed inferiorities. Thus we may truly say that we were opening a door through which women might carry the Message of Love and Life to multitudes who would never receive it save from a woman’s lips. That door will never again be shut. (italics in the original) [iv]

For the first post in this series on the Salvation Army click here

[i] The War Cry, Feb 21, 1885. Quoted in The Founder Speaks Again (London: Salvationist Publishing and Supplies, 1960), p.59-60
[ii] Harold Begbie, Life of William Booth: The Founder of the Salvation Army (2 vols. London: MacMillan, 1920) 2, p.306
[iii] The Founder Speaks Again (London: Salvationist Publishing and Supplies, 1960), p.176
[iv] Quoted in Bramwell Booth, Echoes and Memories (London: Hodder and Stoughton 1925), p.172

©2018 Lex Loizides / Church History Review

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