Amazing work – Amazing Results. The Salvation Army in Canada

The teenage founders, Addie and Ludgate
The teenage founders, Jack Addie and Joe Ludgate

The Salvation Army in Canada
Before long, the Salvationists were spreading. If they were determined enough to try the zaniest ideas on British audiences, they were willing to travel long distances to take their message elsewhere.

I read this short account of the work of Abbie Thompson in 1883. She was a 19yr old Salvation Army Captain who sought to bring the gospel to Kingston, Ontario, Canada. I’ll let the statement stand on its own, except to give a brief introduction by quoting from two contemporary sources, both of which are hilarious.

The Salvation Army had already ‘opened fire’ in Canada, and were not altogether well received. Their youthful working-class roots were difficult to conceal and some didn’t like it. After all, the two founding officers were still teenagers.

On November 8th 1882, the Toronto Globe recorded,

Rev Mr.Bray of Montreal, is opposed to The Salvation Army and its methods. The Reverend gentleman particularly objects to the hymnology of the Army, portions of which contain, in his opinion, very little of religious fervour. Certainly it is hardly possible to escape the conclusion that there is something irreverent in the hymn, "Elijah was a jolly old man, and was carried off to heaven in a fiery van." Yet its intent is good. It is designed to convey to the untutored mind a biblical truth in language suited to the capacities of the persons on whose behalf The Salvation Army labours.
The amazing Abbie Thompson
The amazing Abbie Thompson

Abbie Thompson made her first appearance in 1883. The Toronto Mail actually made reference to her arrival:

(Kingston) This morning a trunk arrived from the Cape upon which were written the words ”Captain Abbie Thompson” “Hallelujah” “Fire”. The Customs officer eyed it suspiciously, and thought of dynamite, infernal machines, and fenians. He refused to search it, and ordered its removal to the warehouse to await its owner.[i]

12,000 attending each night!
Richard Collier puts this early work in Canada in a condensed but baffling paragraph:

And Canada, where two like-minded pioneers had begun on their own initiative, needed organisers too. From May, 1882, when Jack Addie, an eighteen-year-old dry goods salesman and Joe Ludgate, a clothes presser, paraded the streets of London, Ontario, in blue tunics and helmets like British bobbies, The Army’s cause spread like fire under a leaning wind. At Bowmanville, where every leading citizen became a local officer, new ordinances soon forbade men swearing in the streets. At Guelph, one-ninth of the entire population were Salvationists. When Captain “Hallelujah Abbie” Thompson, a vivacious nineteen-year-old brunette, began drawing crowds of 12,000 a night, a sharp-witted Kingston, Ontario, cosmetics manufacturer was quick to cash in. Swiftly he launched a new line in toiletries – “Hallelujah Abbie Soap.”[ii]

Booth seemed entirely confident in his young, energetic, working-class leaders. And their ability to attract large crowds is almost baffling. Perhaps we are too keen to polish up our new leaders or wait a little too long. Perhaps we could learn a little from history and release more of that youthful energy into ministry (just wait ‘til we get to Spurgeon).
More next time….
For the first post in this series on the Salvation Army click here


©2016 Lex Loizides / Church History Review

[i] Both newspaper quotes from http://salvationist.ca/docs/crest/Crest_Spring05.pdf
[ii] Richard Collier, The General Next to God (Glasgow: Fontana/Collins 1965) p.76

The Variety of the Work of the Spirit in Conversion

Northampton, Massachusetts about a century after Edwards
Northampton, Massachusetts about a century after Edwards

A young peoples’ revival
In writing of the revival that broke out in 1735, Jonathan Edwards gives an objective yet compassionate account. The first changes visible were amongst the youth of the town, but the influence quickly spread to other age groups until he was able to make this astonishing observation:

‘In all companies…on whatever occasions persons met together, Christ was to be heard of, and seen in the midst of them.

Our young people, when they met, were [inclined] to spend the time in talking of the excellency and dying love of Jesus Christ…

Those amongst us that had been formerly converted, were greatly enlivened and renewed with fresh and extraordinary incomes of the Spirit of God.’  (Jonathan Edwards, A Narrative of Surprising Conversions, from Jonathan Edwards On Revival, Banner of Truth, p.13-15)

The work of the Spirit in Conversion is Varied
Edwards describes in general terms the order of events in those who were converted at this time:

‘Persons are first awakened with a sense of their miserable condition by nature, the danger they are in of perishing eternally, and it is of great importance to them that they speedily escape and get into a better state…

Some are more suddenly seized with convictions-it may be, by the news of others’ conversion, or some thing they hear in public, or in private conference-their consciences are smitten, as if their hearts were pierced through with a dart.

Others are awakened more gradually…’ (ibid p.23)

George Whitefield, the pre-eminent Evangelist of the 18th Century spoke in similar terms:

‘Therefore, far be it from me to confine the Almighty to one way of acting, or say, that all undergo an equal degree of conviction: no, there is a holy variety in God’s methods of calling home his elect.’ (From Sermon, The Holy Spirit Convincing the World of Sin, Righteousness, and Judgment)

Soul Distress
Jonathan Edawrds describes different levels of alarm and concern experienced amongst the people, but the same objective – forgiveness – being reached by those who seek God’s mercy.

‘Some are from the beginning carried on with abundantly more encouragement and hope than others. Some have had ten times less trouble of mind than others, in whom yet the issue seems to be the same.

Some have had such a sense of the displeasure of God, and the great danger they were in of damnation, that they could not sleep at nights.’ (ibid p.24)

‘Many times persons under great awakenings were concerned, because they thought they were not awakened, but miserable, hard-hearted, senseless, sottish creatures still, and sleeping upon the brink of hell.’ (p.25)

Jesus said that when the Holy Spirit is active He would reveal to men and women the reality of their condition before God.

‘And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment…’ (John 16:8 NASB)

And, as Whitefield urged when he preached on that verse, it is in order that mercy might be obtained. Yet, what a challenge it is for us to read of the impact of conviction of sin on a whole town!

The people of Northampton in the 1730’s could thank God that they had at least one wise Christian leader in Edwards to help them find their way to the cross of Christ and receive forgiveness there.

More next time….

You can purchase Edwards on Revival here

You can read a review of Edwards on Revival here

© 2009 Lex Loizides

How the Great New England Revival Began

‘Remarkable Outpourings of the Spirit’
‘From the fall of man to this day…the Work of Redemption in its effect has mainly been carried on by remarkable pourings out of the Spirit of God.’ (Jonathan Edwards, Sermon: History of the work of Redemption quoted by Mark Noll, The Rise of Evangelicalism, IVP, p.129)

Jonathan Edwards is generally regarded as America’s greatest theologian. His ability as both preacher and writer, and his impact of the lives of millions is unprecedented in American religious literature.

However, like Calvin and the Puritans after the Reformation, Edwards is often caricatured as a hard hearted and even cruel preacher (at face value, this is because of his most famous sermon, ‘Sinners in the hands of an angry God’).

However, anyone who has read his sermons or other works will be pleasantly surprised to find a diligent and humble observer of revival as well as a powerful and moving preacher of God’s word.

Setting the Scene
The town of Northampton, Massachusetts comprising of about 200 families, had seen several local awakenings before Edwards’ ministry. There had been several ‘harvests’, seasons of conversions and church growth, but nothing as extensive as that which took place in 1735.

Jonathan Edwards Narrative Title Page
Jonathan Edwards Narrative Title Page

Edwards writes, ‘Then it was, in the latter part of December that the Spirit of God began extraordinarily to set in, and wonderfully to work amongst us; and there were very suddenly one after another, five or six persons, who were to all appearances savingly converted, and some of them wrought upon in a very remarkable manner.’ (Jonathan Edwards, A Narrative of Surprising Conversions, from Jonathan Edwards On Revival, Banner of Truth, p.12)

The youth are the first to enter in
The awakening began amongst the youth.  A young lady who was well known for her lack of respect for the things of God was suddenly converted and began to evangelise everyone she met.

Her conversion experience had an unexpectedly powerful impact on others.  So much so that Edwards could write:

‘God made it, I suppose, the greatest occasion of awakening to others, of any thing that ever came to pass in the town…

The news of it seemed to be almost like a flash of lightning upon the hearts of young people, all over the town, and upon many others.

Many went to talk with her, concerning what she had met with…’ (ibid p.12)

We’ll pick up the story next time…

You can purchase Edwards on Revival here

You can read a review of Edwards on Revival here

© 2009 Lex Loizides