CATHERINE BOOTH A SKETCH
Reprinted from The Warriors' Library
BY COLONEL MILDRED DUFF
WITH A PREFACE BY GENERAL BRAMWELL BOOTH
Colonel Duff has, at my request, written the following very interesting and touching account of my dear Mother; and she has done so in the hope that those who read it will be helped to follow in the footsteps of that wonderful servant of God.
But how can they do so? Was not Mrs. Booth, you ask, an exceptional woman? Had she not great gifts and very remarkable powers, and was she not trained in a very special way to do the work to which God called her? How, then, can ordinary people follow in her steps? Let me tell you.
Mrs. Booth walked with God. When she was only a timid girl, helping her mother in the household, she continually sought after Him; and when, in later years, she became known by multitudes, and was written of in the newspapers, and greatly beloved by the good in many lands, there was no difference in her life in that matter. She was not content with being Mrs. General Booth of The Salvation Army, and with being looked upon as a great and good woman, giving her life to bless others. No! she listened daily for God's voice in her own heart, sought after His will, and leaned continually for strength and grace upon her Saviour. You can be like her in that.
Mrs. Booth was a soul-winner. A little while before her spirit passed into the presence of God, and when she knew that death was quite near to her, she said: 'Tell the Soldiers that the great consolation for a Salvationist on his dying bed is to feel that he has been a soul-winner.' Wherever she went—in the houses of strangers as well as of friends, in the Meetings, great and small, when she was welcomed and when she was not, whether alone or with others—she laboured to lead souls to Christ. I have known her at one time spend as much trouble to win one as at another time to win fifty. You can follow her example in that.
Mrs. Booth always declared herself and took sides with right. Whatever was happening around her, people always knew which side she was on. She spoke out for the right, the good, and the true, even when doing so involved very disagreeable experiences and the bearing of much unkindness. She hated the spirit which can look on at what is wicked and false or cruel, and say, 'Oh, that is not my affair!' You can follow her example in this also.
Mrs. Booth laboured all her life to improve her gifts. She thought; she prayed; she worked; she read—above all, she read her Bible. It was her companion as a child, as a young follower of Christ, and then as a Leader in The Army. Those miserable words which some of us hear so often about some bad or unfinished work—'Oh, that will do'—were seldom heard from her lips. She was always striving, striving, striving to do better, and yet better, and again better still. All this also you can do.
Mrs. Booth was full of sympathy. No one who was in need or in sorrow, or who was suffering, could meet her without finding out that, she was in sympathy with them. Her heart was tender with the love of Christ, and so she was deeply touched by the sin and sorrow around her just as He was. Even the miseries of the dumb animals moved her to efforts on their behalf. This sympathy made Mrs. Booth quick to see and appreciate the toil and self-denial of others, and ever grateful for any kindness shown to her or to The Army or to those in need of any kind. The very humblest and youngest of those who read this little book can be like her in all this.
Mrs. Booth endured to the end. She never turned back. She was faithful. Her life and work would have been spoilt if she had given up the fight. She was often sorely tempted. She was slandered and misrepresented by enemies, betrayed by false friends, and often deeply wounded by those who professed to love her, though they deserted the Flag. But she held fast. You can be like her in that. You may make many mistakes, suffer many defeats, but you can still keep going on, and it is to those who go on to the very end, whether in weakness or in strength, that Jesus will give the crown of life.
Mrs. Booth trusted with all her heart in the love and sacrifice of her Saviour. These were her hope and her strength. When at the height of her influence and popularity she delighted in that wonderful song which we still so often sing:—
I love Thee because Thou hast first loved me, And purchased my pardon when nailed to the tree;
and when, amid much suffering, she lay dying, we often sang together with her:—
Victory for me! Through the Blood of Christ my Saviour; Victory for me! Through the precious Blood.
This was her victory. You can follow her in the faith that won it. Will you?
I. CHILDHOOD II. CONVERSION AND SOUL STRUGGLES III. A THREE-YEARS ENGAGEMENT IV. A LIFE OF SACRIFICE V. THE SPEAKER VI. THE MOTHER VII. THE WORKER VIII. GOODNESS IX. LOVE X. THE WARRIOR XI. LAST DAYS XII. DATES IN MRS. BOOTH'S LIFE
CATHERINE BOOTH: A SKETCH
'Parents who love God best will not allow their children to learn anything which could not be pressed into His service.'—MRS. BOOTH.
The Mother of The Salvation Army was born at Ashbourne, in Derbyshire, on January 17, 1829, and God gave to her the very best gift He can give to any child—a good and holy mother.
Katie Mumford, as she was then called, had no sister to play with, and of her four brothers only one lived to be a man. But her dear mother more than made up for every lack, and from her lips the little girl learned those blessed lessons which, in her turn, she has taught to us.
One lesson which Mrs. Mumford early taught her daughter was that our bodies will not live for ever. She took Katie to see the body of her infant brother who had just died; and, though she was not more than two years old at the time, Katie never forgot that first lesson. Spiritual things were even then real to her, just because they were so real to her mother. Heaven was home to her, and Jesus her best Friend, ever near to help and guide her.
Truthfulness was a second of those early lessons which remained with our Army Mother all her life. She was but four years old when Mrs. Mumford found her one evening sobbing bitterly in her little cot long after she should have been asleep. She had told a falsehood, and conscience would not let her rest. When she had sobbed out her confession, her mother talked and prayed with her, and at last left her, happy in the assurance that she was forgiven by her Heavenly Father.
After this you will not be surprised to hear that another lesson early taught to Katie by her mother was to love her Bible. She could read nicely when she was but five years old, and she loved to stand by her mother's side, and read the Bible stories aloud, with just a little help over the very long words. And this love for God's Word grew deeper every year, so that by the time she was twelve years old she had read it through eight times. In later years people often wondered how it was that Mrs. Booth knew her Bible so well, and could so quickly answer their difficulties and objections in Bible words. Much of the secret lay in this early training, and in the hours she spent in Bible study later on, when she had reached the age of some of our younger Corps Cadets.
I wish we could have seen her in those days. She had very dark hair, which curled naturally; black, flashing eyes, and such a warm heart, and strong, impetuous nature that she could do nothing by halves. Whatever it was, work or play, her whole soul had to be in it.
Since she was not at all strong, and had few girl friends, Katie did not play rough or noisy games, but her love for her dolls made her quite a little mother to them. She treated them almost like real children, and would sew and toil, and never rest till she felt she had in every way done her duty to them. She loved animals, too, especially dogs and horses, and could not bear to see any one ill-treat them. Oh, how she suffered one day, watching some poor sheep driven down the road! She watched the man beat them—she could not stop him; and at last she tore home, and flung herself down almost choking and speechless with indignation and distress.
Her mother did not check Katie for feeling so keenly. She encouraged her; for she knew that a hard, indifferent child, who can see suffering and not care or be distressed over it, would make a hard woman; and she wanted her Katie to be full of love and tenderness for all, and especially for those needing help.
When Catherine was twelve years old she became very interested in the drink question. She wrote letters about it, and sent them to different newspapers, for there was no 'War Cry' nor 'Young Soldier' in those days; and she also became the secretary of what was then called a Juvenile Temperance Society, and did all she could to get boys and girls to promise never to touch the drink.
Katie was also, like many of you, much interested in the heathen. She would go round to all her friends collecting money to pay for preachers to be sent to them; and in order to get more money she would deny herself sugar and other small luxuries. No one told Katie to do this; but you see our Army Mother herself taught us, by her example when only a child, to keep our great Self-Denial Week.
Of course, most of Katie's time was taken up with her lessons, and, as she loved to learn and study, they were no hardship to her. For two years she went to a boarding-school, and here her companions soon found out how straight and truthful she was. 'You'll never get her to tell a lie,' the girls said, 'nor even to exaggerate, so it's no use trying.' Every one knew also that Katie felt for the backward girls and those who were slow and dull. She wanted them to succeed, and would help them between school hours. That was her joy, you see—to help and care for others; whether at school or at home she was the same.
But you must not think that Catherine was perfect. Oh, no, indeed! Sometimes her schoolmates would tease her because she was so quiet, and liked to read better than to play; and at such times, instead of being patient, she would flare up into a passion, and say harsh, angry words. When the storm was over she would be, however, Oh! so sorry, and would beg her schoolfellows to forgive her.
When Katie had been at school two years, God sent her a very great trial. Instead of being able to go on learning and keeping up with the other girls, she had to return home, and for three long years to lie nearly all the time on her back, often suffering very much. She had a serious spinal complaint, and her friends sometimes doubted whether she would ever walk again.
You wonder what she did in those three years? I will tell you. When the pain would permit it, she would knit and sew. She could not, of course, hold heavy needlework; but little things, like babies' socks and hoods, pin-cushions, and so forth, she would make most beautifully, and then they would be sold to help on the work of God.
Besides her sewing, Katie read a great deal. First, as I have already told you, she read her Bible, and learnt to know God's thoughts about the world and sin, and His wishes for His people. For seven months at one time Catherine had to lie on her face on a special sort of couch made on purpose for her; but she invented a contrivance by which, even then, she could read her Bible, though still remaining in the position that the doctors wished. Then, too, she would read good books—explanations of the Bible, about Holiness, soul-saving, lives of those who have lived and worked for God, and so on. When she had read a chapter she would shut the book, and write down as much as she could remember of it. This helped her to think clearly and to remember what she read, and also to put her thoughts into words.
But she never wasted her time reading stories and novels. Later on in her life she said she was so thankful for this, for she thought that novels and silly story books made people discontented with their own homes and duties, and put wrong, hurtful ideas into their minds. Let us recollect and follow our Army Mother's example here, and not waste time on stories which are not true.
We, if we had known Katie Mumford in those three years of pain and weariness, should have pitied her very much. We might have been tempted to feel that God was hard in not letting her be strong like other girls; but we now see that all the time He was fitting her for the wonderful future before her; and when she became Mrs. Booth, the great preacher, she herself understood this.
'Being so much alone in my youth,' she said, 'and so thrown on my own thoughts and on those expressed in books, has been very helpful to me. Had I been given to gossip, and had there been people for me to gossip with, I should certainly never have accomplished what I did.'
So, you see, God was all the time giving her the very best training He could, and teaching her, as she lay there alone on her bed, what she never could have learned in the ordinary way. And He will train you, too, in the very best way for your future, if you will but determine to trust and serve Him as did Catherine Mumford.
CONVERSION AND SOUL STRUGGLES
'No soul was ever yet saved who was too idle to seek.'—MRS. BOOTH.
Perhaps you, the Corps Cadet, for whom I am especially writing this little book, have been tempted to break your vows by becoming engaged to some one who does not want to be an Officer. And you think, perhaps, that no one understands your feelings.
You will be surprised, then, to know that our Army Mother had just such a battle to fight when she was a girl.
She had a cousin, a little older than herself, who was tall and very clever. He came with his parents to stay in her home, and Katie had not seen him since they were young children. He quickly grew very fond of his cousin, and Catherine found how nice it was to have some one to give her presents and to love her as he did. At last he begged her to promise that by and by she would be engaged to him. Now Katie was very perplexed. On the one hand she loved her cousin, and did not want to grieve him, and yet in her heart she knew he was not truly given up to God, and would not help her in her soul.
'Go to the Meeting with you, Katie?' he used to say. 'Of course, I'll go anywhere to please you.' But then, while she was trying to get a blessing, he would be scratching little pictures on the back of the seat to make her laugh. Perhaps you can guess the struggle it was for Katie to decide what her answer should be. 'If you will only say "yes," and be engaged to him, I am sure you will be able to help him, and very likely get him properly saved,' the Devil would whisper. 'Break it off now, Katie; do not go another step; you know God cannot smile on it.' That was how her conscience spoke.
At last, one day as she was truly praying and seeking for light, she read the verse in 2 Corinthians vi. 14: 'Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers.' It came to her as the voice of God.
'I will do it, Lord,' she said, after a long struggle; and she sat down, and wrote her cousin a letter, telling him just why she could never be engaged to him, and breaking it all off for ever. Then she turned back to her home duties, and did not re-open the question.
And did our Army Mother in after years regret that she had acted like this? No, indeed; she has told us that she saw plainly later on that, if just then she had chosen to follow her own feelings and wishes, instead of obeying God's command, all her life would have been altered, and she would never have done the glorious work He had planned for her. It was a hard battle at the time, and cost her many tears; but it was worth it, ten thousand times over, as we can all see to-day.
Very soon after this victory Catherine became really converted.
'What!' you say. 'Was she not converted before this?'
No. All her life she had, like many children trained to-day in Salvationist homes, felt God's Holy Spirit striving with her. Sometimes, when quite a little girl, her mother would find her crying because she felt how she had sinned against God.
But when she was about fifteen she longed to know that she was really saved.
'Don't be silly,' said the Devil in her heart. 'You have been as good as saved all your life. You have always wanted to do right. How can you expect such a sudden change as if you were a great big drunkard? It's absurd.'
'But my heart is as bad as the heart of a big sinner,' cried poor Katie in an agony of fear. 'I have been as bad inside, if not in my outward actions and words.'
And then she took hold of God in faith. 'Lord, I must be converted. I cannot rest till Thou hast changed my whole nature; do for me what Thou dost do, for the thieves and drunkards.'
But for six weeks it seemed as if God did not hear her cry. She grew more and more unhappy. All her past sins rose before her: those bursts of temper when she was at school, those wrong thoughts and feelings. Yes, the Bible was true when it said: 'The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.'
Katie argued, too, like this: 'I cannot recollect any time or place where I claimed Salvation and the forgiveness of my sins; if God has saved me, He would surely have made me certain of it. Anyway, I must and will know it. I must have the assurance that I am God's child.'
Unable to rest, she would pace her room till two o'clock in the morning, and would lie down at last, with her Bible and hymn-book under her pillow, praying that God would Himself tell her that her sins were forgiven. At last, one morning, as she woke, she opened her hymn-book, and read these words:—
My God, I am Thine, What a comfort divine, What a blessing to know that my Jesus is mine.
Now she had read and sung these lines scores of times before, but they came this morning with a new power to her soul.
'I am Thine!' 'My Jesus is mine!' she exclaimed. 'Lord, it is true!—I do believe it! My sins are forgiven. I belong to Thee!' and her whole soul was filled with light and joy. She now possessed what she had been seeking all these weeks—the assurance of Salvation! And then what do you think she did? She threw on a wrapper, and, without waiting to dress, hurried across to her mother's room, and tapped at the door.
'Come in,' said her mother's voice; and Katie, her face shining with joy, burst into the room. 'Mamma, mamma, I am a child of God! My sins are forgiven—Jesus is my Saviour!' she cried, flinging herself into her mother's arms. And this was the same Katie, who had been so shy and backward that she had never before dared to speak about her spiritual anxieties, even to her mother! Ah! what a change real conversion, or change of heart, had made.
For the next six months Katie was so happy that she felt as if she were walking on air. 'I used to tremble,' she tells us, 'and even long to die, lest I should back-slide or lose the sense of God's favour.'
But as time went on she learned, as we all have to do, to walk by faith, not by sight, and to serve and follow the Saviour whether she had happy feelings or not.
But you must not suppose, because Katie had the assurance of Salvation, that therefore she had no more fighting. No—indeed, her fighting days had only just begun.
One of her great difficulties, which many Corps Cadets will understand, was that she felt so nervous about doing anything in public. No one, of course, asked her to speak—such a thing was never dreamed of; but the lady who took the Bible Class which she attended regularly would now and then ask her to pray. 'Miss Mumford will pray,' the lady would say, when they were all kneeling together.
But Katie was too shy to begin, and sometimes they would wait for several minutes before she had courage to say a few words. 'Don't ask me to pray again,' she said one day to her leader; 'the excitement and agitation make me quite ill.'
'I can't help that,' was the very wise answer; 'you must break through your timidity; for otherwise you will be of no use to God.'
And did Katie persevere? Yes, indeed, she did. Here is an entry made some time later in the diary that she kept, which shows you how very much her experience was like yours:—
'I have not been blessed so much for weeks as I was to-night. I prayed aloud. The cross was great, but so was the reward.
My heart beat violently, but I felt some liberty.'
Though Catherine's spine difficulty was better, she was still very delicate, and at the age of eighteen every one felt sure she was going into a decline. But, sick or well, her soul grew stronger, and her desire to please and serve God better increased every day.
'I do love Thee,' she wrote in the same little diary, 'but I want to love Thee more.'
It was not till many years later that Catherine received the blessing of a clean heart; but even now she had begun to desire and long for it. She also writes at this time: 'I see that this Full Salvation is very necessary if I am to glorify God below, and find my way to Heaven. I want a clean heart. Lord, take me and seal me.'
Some people, even after they are converted, are too proud to own themselves wrong, or to confess when they have sinned. Catherine was not of that sort. In one of her letters to her mother she ends with these words:—
'Pray for me, dear mother, and believe me, with all my faults and besetments, your loving child.'
Her hunger after a holy life was real and practical. She knew she must learn to live by method—that is, doing right, whether she liked it or not—and not by feelings, if she was to be of use in the world.
So at the end of the year she wrote some new resolutions; and as they may be of help to you, I will copy them for you just as she put them down:—
'I have been writing a few daily rules for the coming year, which I hope will prove a blessing to me, by the grace of God. I have got a paper of printed rules also, which I intend to read once a week. May the Lord help me to keep to them! But, above all, I am determined to search the Scriptures more attentively, for in them I have eternal life. I have read my Bible through twice during the past sixteen months, but I must read it with more prayer for light and understanding. Oh, may it be my meat and drink! May I meditate on it day and night! And then I shall bring forth fruit in season; my leaf also shall not wither, and whatsoever I do shall prosper.'
She had also her own private ways of denying herself, not for the sake of earning money or praise by it, but simply because she felt it was right. One of these rules was to do without dinner, and butter at breakfast, once in the week, because she felt it helped her in her soul.
I cannot end this chapter without telling you of the one great sorrow which darkened all her early years. Some of you, I know, will enter into her feelings so well.
Her father, at one time saved and earnest about the souls of others, had grown cold and backslidden, and now never even went near a Meeting. You can fancy what agony this was to both Mrs. Mumford and her daughter. They prayed and wept in vain—he only seemed to get more indifferent. Catherine would sometimes write her feelings and her sorrow in her diary, and there we read:—
'I sometimes get into an agony of feeling while praying for my dear father. Oh, my Lord, answer prayer, and bring him back to Thyself! Never let that tongue which once delighted in praising Thee, and in showing others Thy willingness to save, be engaged in uttering the lamentations of the lost! Oh, awful thought! Lord, have mercy! Save, Oh! save him in any way Thou seest best, though it be ever so painful. If by removing me Thou canst do this, cut short Thy work, and take me Home. Let me be bold to speak in Thy name. Oh, give me true courage and liberty, and when I write to him, bless what I say to the good of his soul!'
For many years this prayer of Catherine's was not answered; but she held on, as you must do for those you love, in faith and prayer; and at last she had the unspeakable joy of seeing her dear father come back to God through one of her own Meetings which he had attended. His last years were full of peace, and were spent in serving God and rejoicing in His Salvation.
A THREE-YEARS ENGAGEMENT
'What a need there is for effort and energy; or real religion and common sense!'—MRS. BOOTH.
One Sunday, when Catherine and her mother went to the Meeting as usual, they found a 'Special' there, taking the services. He was quite different from the other Specials, and Catherine could not help noticing him with extra interest. He spoke to the people's hearts, and was not so much occupied in preaching a good sermon as in getting some one converted. But he did preach a very good sermon for all that, and chose this verse as his text—'This is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.'
A few days later Catherine and her mother were spending the evening with a friend, when the very same preacher came in, and was introduced to them as the Rev. William Booth.
Catherine knew they had one subject in common—love for souls; but before the evening ended she discovered that the young minister was quite as earnest as she was herself in fighting the Drink curse and all that was connected with it.
A few Sundays later Mr. Booth preached again in the same building, this time as the minister, or, as we should say, 'Officer in charge,' and no longer as a Special. And now you will guess that the two often met, and that, because they had so many interests in common, they soon learned to know each other well, till respect grew into friendship, and friendship into love.
Catherine was at this time twenty-two years old, and Mr. Booth was three months younger; but, though you would have said they were old enough to know their own minds, they did nothing hastily, and would enter into no engagement till they were quite sure of God's Will in the matter.
Had Catherine ever before thought of the day when she would get married? you, perhaps, ask. Oh, yes, indeed, and when but a girl of sixteen— directly, in fact, after she was saved—she settled in her own heart what sort of a man her future husband must be. First, she decided, he must be truly converted, and a total abstainer, not to please her, but from his own choice. Then he must be a man of sense, or she could never respect him; and, if they were to be happy, they must feel and think alike on all important matters.
Ah, if our women-Soldiers and Cadets to-day would but follow our Army Mother's example, there would be fewer unhappy marriages and wrecked lives!
But in her secret heart Catherine had also, girl-like, some ideas about the sort of man she would like to marry, if she might choose. He should be a minister—that was the nearest she could get to an Officer in those days; William was a name she particularly liked, and—if only he might be tall and dark! If you had been there when Katie Mumford first listened to his preaching you would have seen that he was 'tall and dark' indeed.
But though William Booth loved Catherine with a deep and holy love, which increased each time they met, yet he was very poor, and he wondered if he ought, under the circumstances, to ask her to share his lot. He wrote a letter to her, telling her how perplexed and troubled he was, and her answer shows us that, right from the very earliest days, before they were even engaged, her one desire was that his soul should prosper.
'My dear friend,' she begins ... 'The thought that I should cause you any suffering or increase your perplexity is almost unbearable. I am tempted to wish that we had never seen each other. Do try to forget me, as far as the remembrance would injure your usefulness or spoil your peace. If I have no alternative but to oppose the Will of God, or trample on the desolations of my own heart, my choice is made. "Thy will be done" is my constant cry. I care not for myself; but Oh, if I cause you to err, I shall never be happy again.'
It was not the fear of poverty that frightened her, for a few days later she says:—
'I fear you did not fully understand my difficulty. It was not circumstances. I thought I had assured you that a bright prospect would not allure me, nor a dark one affright me, if only we are one in heart.
My only reason for wishing to defer the engagement was that you might feel satisfied in your mind that the step is right.... If you are convinced on this point, let circumstances go, and let us be one, come what may.'
This is exactly what they did, and after meeting, and together consecrating their lives to God, they solemnly pledged themselves to each other.
And now began a three-years' engagement, in which, though often for long months at a time they never met, they remained true to each other and to God, in thought and word and deed.
Many of the beautiful letters that our Army Mother wrote to The General at this time, I am glad to tell you, have been kept, and we will look together at some of the ways in which she tried to help and cheer him.
In the first letter after their engagement she ends with these words:—
'The more you lead me up to Christ in all things, the more highly shall I esteem you; and if it be possible to love you more than I do now, the more shall I love you. You are always present in my thoughts.'
Now you must not think that, even in these early days, our General had a very easy life. He was often much perplexed and troubled, longing above all to do God's Will for the Salvation of the people, and yet not quite sure what that Will was. At these times Catherine was of untold help to him.
Once he was very unsettled—not certain whether he should remain away in the North of England, or accept a place in London, where the two could often meet. Most girls would have said, 'Oh, come, then we shall be near to each other'; but you will see that her advice to him is just as suitable for you when you are not certain of your duty—that she does not consider her own feelings at all.
'I wish,' she writes, 'you prayed more and talked less about the matter. Try it, and be determined to get clear and settled views as to your course. Leave your heart before God, and get satisfied in His sight, and then do it, be it what it may. I cannot bear the idea of your being unhappy. Pray do in this as you feel in your soul it will be right. My conscience is no standard for yours.'
Then she adds, lower down:—
'Oh, if you come to London, let us be determined to reap a blessed harvest. Let our fellowship be sanctified to our souls' everlasting good. My mind is made up to do my part towards it. I hope to be firm as a rock on some points. The Lord help me. We must aim to improve each other's mind and character. Let us pray for grace to do it in the best way and to the fullest extent possible.'
'Anyway,' she says, a day or two later—and ever remember her words when outside things try and distress you—'don't let the controversy hurt your soul. Live near to God by prayer.... You believe He answers prayer. Then take courage. Just fall down at His feet, and open your very soul before Him, and throw yourself right into His arms. Tell Him that if you are wrong you only wait to be set right, and, be the path rough or smooth, you will walk in it.
'Oh, you must live close to God! If you are a greater distance from Him than you were, just stop the whirl of outward things, or rather leave it, and shut yourself up with Him till all is clear and bright upwards. Do, there's a dear. Oh, how much we lose by not coming to the point. Now, at once, realize your union with Christ, and trust Him to lead you through this perplexity. Bless you. Excuse this advice. I am anxious for your soul. Look up. If God hears my prayers, He must guide you—He will guide you.'
In these early days our General was tempted, as some of us are tempted to-day, to feel nervous and shy when talking before large crowds, and where the people were better dressed and better off than usual. He wrote his feelings to Catherine, and she sends him back her wise advice and help. 'I am sorry for this,' she says, 'and am persuaded it is the fear of man which shackles you. Do not give place to this feeling. Remember you are the Lord's servant, and if you are a faithful one it will be a small matter with you to be judged of man's judgment. Let nothing be wanting beforehand to make what you say helpful, but when you are before the people try to think only of your own responsibility to Him who hath sent you.'
Again, later, she writes:—
'Try and cast off the fear of man. Fix your eyes simply on the glory of God, and care not for frown or praise of man. Rest not till your soul is fully alive to God.' How truly she herself carried this out in her own Meetings you will hear later on.
Miss Mumford was very anxious that The General should improve himself with plenty of hard work. She saw what he might become, and she also knew that unless he did his part all those wonderful powers which God had lent to him would be thrown away.
'Do assure me,' she writes, 'my own dear William, that no want of energy or effort on your part shall hinder the improvement of those talents God has given you.'
So that, with his constant travelling and preaching, he might get time to read and think and learn, she suggested a little plan to him in his billets.
'Could you not,' she says, 'provide yourself with a small leather bag or case, large enough to hold your Bible and any other book you might require—pens, ink, paper and a candle? And, presuming that you generally have a room to yourself, could you not rise by six o'clock every morning, and convert your bedroom into a study till breakfast time?... I hope, my dearest love, you will consider this plan, and keep to it, if possible, as a general practice. Don't let little difficulties prevent your carrying it out.'
You must remember that at this time neither Catherine nor Mr. Booth ever dreamed of the wonderful work they were to be called to do. He was then preaching and getting souls saved, mostly in country places, and had many a 'hard go,' but that was no reason why he should not improve.
Did The General like this advice and counsel? Or did he feel, as some men do to-day, that women cannot judge nor understand such things?
Ah! he was wise, and only too glad to have all the help that Catherine could give him. In fact, he often wrote begging her to help him more. The outlines for addresses which she sent him weekly he valued and used, as this letter shows:—
'I have,' he writes, 'just taken hold of that sketch you sent me on "Be not deceived," and am about to make a full sermon on it. I like it much. It is admirable.
'I want a sermon on the Flood, one on Jonah, and one on the Judgment. Send me some bare thoughts, some clear, startling outlines. We must have that kind of truth which will move sinners.'
But if Catherine Mumford was anxious about the mind and work of her future husband, much more was she anxious about his soul. To her, there could be no true love without faithfulness, and where she felt it necessary, she cautioned him in the truest and tenderest way:—
'You have special need,' she writes, 'for watchfulness and for much private intercourse with God.
'My dearest love, beware how you indulge that dangerous element of character, ambition. Misdirected, it will be everlasting ruin to yourself, and perhaps to me also. Oh, my love, let nothing earthly excite it; let not the wish to be great fire it. Fix it on the Throne of the Eternal, and let it find the realization of its loftiest aspirations in the promotion of His glory, and it shall be consummated with the richest enjoyments and brightest glories of God's own Heaven.'
You wonder, perhaps, if Catherine ever wrote 'love letters,' as we call them. She never wrote the foolish and sentimental letters which say a great deal, and mean very little; but she was able to put her great love into words strong, intense, and full of tenderness.
'Do I remember?' she asks in one letter. 'Yes, I remember all—all that has bound us together. All the bright and happy, as well as the clouded and sorrowful times of our fellowship. Nothing relating to you can time or place erase from my memory. Your words, your looks, your actions, even the most trivial and incidental, come up before me as fresh as life. If I meet a child called William, I am more interested in him than in any other. Bless you. Keep your spirits up, and hope much for the future. God lives and loves us, and we shall be one in Him, loving each other as Christ loved us.'
William Booth and Catherine Mumford were married in London, on June 15, 1855; and here are a few lines from the last letter she wrote to him before the engagement was ended, and the long thirty-five years of happy married life began:—
'I long to see you. Your letters do not satisfy the yearnings of my heart. Perhaps they ought to. I wish it were differently constituted. I might be much happier. But it will be extravagant and enthusiastic in spite of all my schooling. If I ever get to Heaven, what rapture shall I know! No, there is no fear of our loving each other too much. How can we love each other more than Christ has loved us? And this is the standard He has given us. What a precious thing is the religion of Jesus! It makes our first duties our highest happiness. It has the promise of the life that now is, as well as of that which is to come. We will spend all our energies in trying to persuade men to receive and practise it.'
How wonderfully she carried this intention into practice, and, together with The General, lived every moment 'publishing the Sinner's Friend,' you shall read later on.
A LIFE OF SACRIFICE
'Since I came to the crucifixion of myself, I have not cared much what men might say of me.'—MRS. BOOTH.
At the time when our Army Mother married The General's work was, as we have seen, that of an 'Evangelist' or 'Travelling Minister.' He would stay in a town for some weeks or months, as the case might be, preaching and holding Meetings, and getting people saved, both in the town itself and the places round.
It was a blessed and useful life, but very wearying; and we can fancy how trying it must have been for Mrs. Booth after her marriage not to have any home of her own, but to billet first in one stranger's house, and then in another's.
But she did not complain, though we see what it cost her by a letter she writes to her mother, telling the good news that they are to live in lodgings while at Sheffield:—
'You cannot think,' she writes, 'with what joy I look forward to being to ourselves once more. For though I get literally oppressed with kindness, I must say I would prefer a home where we could sit down together at our own little table, myself the mistress, and my husband the only guest. But the work of God so abundantly prospers that I dare not repine, or else I feel this constant packing and unpacking and staying amongst strangers to be a great burden, especially while so weak and poorly. But then I have many mercies and advantages. My precious William is all I desire, and without this what would the most splendid home be but a glittering bauble?'
For several years Mrs. Booth travelled in this way from place to place, helping, cheering, and encouraging her husband in his soul-saving campaigns. She felt her duty lay here, and even when she had a little son to care for, she was unwilling to settle down. Writing to her mother, who urged her to leave off this trying life; or, at any rate, to hand the baby over to her, she says:—
'My objection to leaving William gets stronger as I see the need he has of my presence, care, and sympathy; neither is he willing for it himself. Nor can I make up my mind to parting with Willie.'
Mrs. Booth's object was to be a help to her husband—not a hindrance; to push him forward in his soul-saving work—not to hold him back; and therefore, instead of rejoicing, as most wives and mothers would have done, when a settled home and work were offered him, she was doubtful.
'Personally considered,' she writes to her mother, 'I care nothing about it. I feel that a good rest in one place will be a boon to us. Anyhow, if God wills him to be an Evangelist, He will open the way. I find that I love the work itself far more than I thought I did, and I am willing to risk something for it.'
After this came several years of great conflict and struggle. The Conference (or, as we would say, Headquarters) under whom The General worked did not wish him to continue the great Salvation Campaigns for which God had so marvellously fitted him. They wanted him to 'settle down,' and spend perhaps several years in one place like ordinary ministers.
To please those who were over him he did this, and spent four years in one town. But though God blessed his efforts, The General was convinced that he was called to greater things. He loved the sinners; wherever he went crowds flocked to hear him, and the vilest were converted. Was it God's will, therefore, that he should sacrifice the work his soul loved, and 'settle down' into an ordinary life, helping and reaching only the people of one small city?
This question our Army Mother helped him to decide. Try to picture her position. She had by this time a family of little children, and her health was very delicate. By counselling The General to 'settle down,' as his friends wished him to do, she would have a nice home, a comfortable income, and, above all, the constant presence of her husband, who would no longer need to leave her on his long soul-saving tours.
By refusing the position offered, and choosing instead to take up the 'evangelistic life' again, The General turned his back on salary, home, and work, and went out into the world, with his wife and four children, friendless and alone. Do you wonder that the struggle was a severe one?
'Pray for me,' she wrote to her mother, when the question was about to be settled. 'I have many a conflict in regard to the proposed new departure; not as to our support—I feel as though I can trust the Lord implicitly for all that; but the Devil tells me I shall never be able to endure the loneliness and separation of the life. He draws many a picture of most dark and melancholy shade. But I cling to the promise, "No man hath forsaken," etc., and, having sworn to my own hurt, may I stand fast. I have told William that if he takes the step, and it should bring me to the workhouse, I would never say one upbraiding word. No. To blame him for making such a sacrifice for God and conscience' sake would be worse than wicked. So, whatever be the result, I shall make up my mind to endure it patiently, looking to the Lord for grace and strength.'
But if it was difficult for Mrs. Booth, the path was equally dark and hard for The General.
'William hesitates,' she writes a few weeks later. 'He thinks of me and the children, and I appreciate his love and care. But I tell him that God will provide, if he will only go straight on in the path of duty. It is strange that I, who always used to shrink from the sacrifice, should be the first in making it. But when I made the surrender I did it whole- heartedly, and ever since I have been like another being. Oh, pray for us yet more and more! We have no money coming in from any quarter now. Nor has William any invitations at present. The time is unfavourable. I am much tempted to feel it hard that God has not cleared our path more satisfactorily. But I will not "charge God foolishly." I know that His way is often in the whirlwind, and He rides upon the storm: I will try to possess my soul in patience, and to wait on Him.'
Sometimes you have heard your Officers talking in a Meeting, and telling the people that, if they will but step out in faith, and do right, God will open up the way for them. The example of our General and Army Mother has taught us this lesson, for few ever took a step of faith into greater darkness and difficulty than they did at this time.
'My dearest,' writes Mrs. Booth to her mother, 'is starting for London. Pray for him. He is much harassed. But I have promised to keep a brave heart. At times it appears to me that God may have something very glorious in store for us, and when He has tried us He will bring us forth as gold. It will not be the first time I have taken a leap in the dark, humanly speaking, for conscience' sake.'
It was, indeed, a 'leap in the dark': to break up their little home in the North, and, travelling by boat, to save expense, to bring their four children to Mrs. Mumford's house in London. There they separated: the father and mother went to Cornwall, to hold a Salvation campaign in a little chapel that had been lent to them, and the children remained behind.
Of the marvellous way in which God blessed the Cornish work, I cannot stop to tell you. Mrs. Booth's name as a preacher was by this time becoming as widely known as that of her husband; and they went from one place to another, at first together, and then, afterwards, separately, so as to be able to do more good, for four long years.
Whenever possible, our Army Mother took her children with her: she never left them to others when she could help it, and later on I shall tell you what a devoted and tender mother she was; but the strain of those four long years no one will ever know. I want you to see the dark as well as the bright side of her wonderful life; and here is part of a letter to her mother, written at that time:—
'I feel dreadfully unsettled at present. I don't like this mode of living at all. William has now been away from home, except on Friday and Saturday, for twelve weeks. I long to get fixed together again once more. The going backwards and forwards and being in other people's houses does not suit William. Nor do I like leaving home for the Sabbaths. I am much tempted to look gloomily towards the future. But "my heart is fixed." "I will trust, and not be afraid."'
Then again, a little later on:—
'Pray for me. I sometimes feel as though I had taken a path which is too hard for me, and duties too heavy for me to perform; but it is my privilege to say, and to feel, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."'
Once again she says:—
'Well, the Lord help us to be faithful to our convictions, even in the dark and cloudy day! I have felt it hard work to do so lately. Many a time have I longed to be where the weary are at rest.
'Well, we must labour and wait a little longer; it may be that the clouds will break, and surround us with sunshine. Anyway, God lives above the clouds, and He will direct our path.'
The General and Mrs. Booth were holding Salvation services in London when our Army Mother was called to make a fresh sacrifice, never dreaming of the wonderful results that would spring from it. You shall read about it in her own words, spoken many years afterwards:—
'I remember well,' she says, 'when The General decided at last to give up the evangelistic life and to devote himself to the Salvation of the East- Enders. He had come home from a Meeting one night, tired out, as usual. It was between eleven and twelve o'clock. Flinging himself into an easy chair, he said to me, "O Kate, as I passed by the doors of the flaming gin-palaces to-night I seemed to hear a voice sounding in my ears, 'Where can you go and find such heathen as these, and where is there so great a need for your labours?' And I felt as though I ought at every cost to stop and preach to these East-End crowds."
'I remember the emotion that this produced in my soul. I sat gazing into the fire, and the Devil whispered to me, "This means another new departure—another start in life."
'The question of our support I saw at once to be a serious difficulty. Hitherto we had been able to meet our expenses by the collections which we had made from our respectable audiences. But it was impossible to suppose that we could do so among the poverty-stricken East-Enders. We did not then see things as we do to-day. We were afraid even to ask for a collection among the East London crowds.
'Nevertheless, I did not answer discouragingly. After a moment's pause for thought and prayer, I answered, "Well, if you feel you ought to stay, stay. We have trusted the Lord once for our support, and we can trust Him again."'
Mrs. Booth, when she answered like this, had no idea of all that was to follow. She never dreamt that, from The General's standing alone in Whitechapel, a mighty wave of Salvation would sweep over the earth, nor that God was about to raise up an Army of which she and The General were to be the leaders.
But, as always before, she willingly agreed to whatever would be for God's glory and the Salvation of souls; and we all know to-day how, from that little Whitechapel beginning, grew the Christian Mission, and how, at last, the Christian Mission became The Salvation Army.
Do not think, however, that our dear Army Mother's consecration stopped here! No, indeed. One by one, as they became old enough, she gave up her children to the Work, and we shall never know all we owe as an Army to her beautiful spirit of devotion and sacrifice.
Let us stand together by her open grave in the autumn twilight. Her twenty-six years of fight and toil in The Salvation Army are over now, her spirit has been summoned Home. Listen. The Army Founder himself is the speaker. He is recalling the forty years which he and our dear Army Mother had trod together, and his words sum up better than any other words could do what she was to our Leader:—
'If you had had a tree,' he said, speaking to the vast crowd that stood round the grave, 'that had grown up in your garden, under your window, which for forty years had been your shadow from the burning sun, whose flowers had been the adornment and beauty of your life, whose fruit had been almost the stay of your existence, and the gardener had come along and swung his glittering axe and cut it down before your eyes, I think you would feel as though you had a blank—it might not be a big one—but a little blank in your life.
'If you had had a servant who for all this long time had served you without fee or reward, who had administered, for very love, to your health and comfort, and who suddenly passed away, you would miss that servant.
'If you had had a counsellor who, in hours—continually occurring—of perplexity and amazement, had ever advised you, and seldom advised wrong; whose advice you had followed, and seldom had reason to regret it; and the counsellor, while you were in the same intricate mazes of your existence, had passed away, you would miss that counsellor.
'If you had had a friend who had understood your very nature, the rise and fall of your feelings, the bent of your thoughts, and the purpose of your existence; a friend whose communion had ever been pleasant—the most pleasant of all other friends—to whom you had ever turned with satisfaction, and your friend had been taken away, you would feel some sorrow at the loss.
'If you had had a mother for your children who had cradled and nursed and trained them for the service of the living God, in which you most delighted—a mother, indeed, who had never ceased to bear their sorrows on her heart, and who had been ever willing to pour forth that heart's blood in order to nourish them, and that darling mother had been taken from your side, you would feel it a sorrow.
'If you had had a wife, a sweet love of a wife, who for forty years had never given you real cause for grief; a wife who had stood with you, side by side, in the battle's front, who had been a comrade to you, ever willing to interpose herself between you and the enemy, and ever the strongest when the battle was fiercest, and your beloved one had fallen before your eyes, I am sure there would be some excuse for your sorrow.
'Well, my comrades, you can roll all these qualities into one personality, and what would be lost in all I have lost in one. There has been taken away from me the light of my eyes, the inspiration of my soul, and we are about to lay all that remains of her in the grave. I have been looking right at the bottom of it here, and calculating how soon they may bring and lay me alongside of her, and my cry to God has been that every remaining hour of my life may make me readier to come and join her in death, to go and embrace her in life in the Eternal City.'
'I will never speak to sinners so that one man or woman in my audience can stand up and say, "You might have warned me more faithfully, spoken more plainly than you did." I would rather die than that should be the case.'—MRS. BOOTH.
No one must think that Mrs. Booth became a great speaker all in a moment, or by any 'royal road.' She started when about eighteen, as many a Corps Cadet has since done, by just taking a class or Company on Sundays, never dreaming of doing more. An elder girls' Company was given to her; and she had fifteen girls to teach, whose ages varied from twelve to nineteen.
Two half-days she spent every week in preparing for her Company, and in trying to make each lesson end in a practical way, so as to do them real good.
Then on Sunday, when the rest of the children had been dismissed, Miss Mumford would beg to be given the key of the room and would remain behind, holding a little Prayer Meeting with her girls. Sometimes they would stay on for an hour and a half, and many by this means became truly converted.
Often with so much praying and singing Catherine quite lost her voice before the end of the Meeting; but, so long as souls were saved, she did not mind that.
Soon after her marriage Mrs. Booth took another class of this same kind, and also a little sort of Sergeants' Meeting, and then—for you see our Army Mother was led on, just as you or I may be, step by step—she gave a short talk to the Band of Hope children (something like our Band of Love of today) on the evils of drink.
'Oh, how I wish,' she wrote to her father, 'that I had started speaking years ago!'
A little later on Mr. and Mrs. Booth moved to Gateshead, and there the people were very much surprised to hear their minister's wife pray aloud when her husband had done speaking; for in those days very few women thought of praying, much less of speaking, in public.
'Since you can pray so beautifully, will you come and talk to us on our special Prayer-Meeting night?' some of the people asked. But Mrs. Booth was horrified.
'Of course, I said "No,"' she wrote. 'I don't know what they can be thinking of.'
Just at this time an argument began in one of the newspapers as to whether women had the right to speak for God or not. Mrs. Booth wrote an answer to this question you can read it for yourself in her book, 'Practical Religion'—and she showed from God's Word, that women have the same right to help to get people saved that the men have. The little pamphlet was already printed and being widely read, and our Army Mother lay alone in her room very ill, when the thought flashed into her soul, 'You have been helping other women to preach and to speak for God. What about yourself?'
'Oh, no, Lord, not me; I can't. I am, as Thou knowest, the most timid and bashful disciple ever saved by grace.' That was her answer.
Then the Lord took her back to the days when she first gave herself to Him, at the age of fifteen. He showed her that all the way along this one thing had hindered and stopped her from 'being the blessing or from getting the blessing He intended.'
'Lord,' she cried, 'if Thou wilt come back to me as in the old days, I will obey, though I die in the attempt.'
But at the moment God seemed not to answer her cry, and when she was well again all went on as before.
Three months later Mrs. Booth was quietly sitting one Sunday morning in chapel with her eldest boy, when a very wonderful thing happened. You shall read about it in her own words:—
'I felt much depressed in mind,' she says, 'and was not expecting anything particular, but as the testimonies proceeded I felt the Holy Spirit come upon me. It seemed as if a voice said to me: "Now, if you were to go and testify, you know I would bless it to your own soul as well as to the people!" I gasped again, and said in my heart: "Yes, Lord, I believe Thou wouldst, but I cannot do it!" I had forgotten my vow.
'A moment afterwards there flashed across my mind the memory of the time when I had promised the Lord that I would obey Him at all costs. And then the voice seemed to ask me if this was consistent with that promise. I almost jumped up and said, "No, Lord, it is the old thing over again. But I cannot do it!" I felt as though I would sooner die than speak. And then the Devil said, "Besides, you are not prepared. You will look like a fool, and will have nothing to say." He made a mistake. He overreached himself for once. It was this word that settled it. "Ah!" I said, "this is just the point. I have never yet been willing to be a fool for Christ. Now I will be one!"
'Without stopping another moment, I rose up from my seat and walked down the aisle. My dear husband thought something had happened to me, and so did the people. We had been there two years, and they knew my timid, bashful nature. He stepped down, and asked me, "What is the matter, my dear?" I replied, "I want to say a word!" He was so taken by surprise that he could only say, "My dear wife wishes to speak!" and sat down. For years he had been trying to persuade me to do it. Only that very week he had wanted me to go and address a little Cottage Meeting of some twenty working people, but I had refused.
'I stood—God only knows how—and if any mortal ever did hang on the arm of Omnipotence, I did. I just stood and told the people how it had come about. I confessed, as I think everybody should who has been in the wrong and has misrepresented the religion of Jesus Christ. I said, "I dare say many of you have been looking upon me as a very devoted woman, and one who has been living faithfully to God. But I have come to realize that I have been disobeying Him, and thus brought darkness and leanness into my soul. I have promised the Lord to do so no longer, and have come to tell you that henceforth I will be obedient to the holy vision."
'There was more weeping, they said, in the chapel that day than on any previous occasion. Many dated a renewal in righteousness from that very moment, and began a life of devotion and consecration to God.
'Now I might have "talked good" to them till now. That honest confession did what twenty years of preaching could not have accomplished.'
After this wonderful victory Mrs. Booth never again drew back. The same night she spoke once more, with even greater power than in the morning, and before long invitations came pouring in from all parts, for wherever she went souls were saved and people sanctified.
But it cost her a great deal to preach like this. She writes of one Meeting held soon after:—
'I got on very well, and had three beautiful cases, but I cannot tell you how I felt all day about it. I could neither eat nor sleep. I never was in such a state, and when I saw the people, I felt like melting away. However, I got through.'
Even to the last, when she was known all round the world as one of the greatest women-preachers of the day, she never spoke without feeling deeply the responsibility and importance of her work, nor without having prepared carefully beforehand what she wanted to say.
It was very difficult for her, with four little children, the eldest only four years and three months old, to get enough time and quiet. We should have said it was impossible, for she was not well off, and could not afford to put her sewing out, or to have many servants to work for her; but she says:—
'God forced me to begin to think and work, and He gave me grace and strength to do it. Many a time while I was nursing my baby I was thinking of what I should say next Sunday, and between times I noted down with a pencil the thoughts as they struck me. Then I would appear with an outline scratched in pencil, trusting in the Lord to give me the power of His Holy Spirit; and from the day I began He has never allowed me to open my mouth without giving me signs of His presence and blessing.'
The two books she always used in getting ready for her Meetings were her Bible and Concordance.
In later years she taught her children how to prepare for their Meetings, and some of the advice she gives is very helpful to Corps Cadets.
'"Jesus wept,"' she writes to her eldest girl, who was then fourteen, 'would be a nice subject for you at one of your little Meetings. And you could find some texts to show how David wept, and Daniel, and Jeremiah, etc., if you like it. But don't take it because I say so—you must ask the Lord for your subjects.'
Later on, however, as The Salvation Army grew, Mrs. Booth felt that, though it was just as necessary to prepare, yet to speak from notes was often not helpful to either the Officer or the people, so she writes to one of her sons:—
'Get out of them! They don't fit our work. When you get on, you don't want them; and when you don't, they are no good. At first, if your memory won't serve you, just jot on a small bit of paper the size of a ticket your main divisions in large writing, but no more. Like this:—
'Day of wrath is come. '1. God's wrath. '2. Just wrath. '3. Uttermost wrath. '4. Eternal wrath.'
On the platform Mrs. Booth's manner was as simple and natural as when by her own fireside; anything 'put on' or affected she hated.
'If I were asked,' she says, 'to put into one word what I consider to be the greatest hindrance to the success of Divine truth, even when spoken by sincere and real people, I should say stiffness. Simplicity is indispensable to success, naturalness in putting the truth. It seems as if people, the moment they come to religion, put on a different tone, a different look and manner—in short, become unnatural.'
But Mrs. Booth not only prepared for her Meetings by thought and study, but she prepared most of all by prayer.
'Oh, if we could,' she writes, 'get more of the spirit of prayer into those who love God! Few understand it at all.
'I always find an exact proportion in the results to the spirit of intercession I have had beforehand. That is why I like to be alone in lodgings.'
Before her Meeting she would wrestle and plead with God for hours, in tears and agony, and then would face her congregation overflowing with love and faith.
'Pray for me,' she writes during her marvellous Portsmouth campaign. 'No one knows how I feel. I think I never realized my responsibility as I did on Sunday night. I felt really awful before rising to speak. The sight almost overwhelmed me. With its two galleries, its dome-like roof and vast proportions, when crammed with people, the building presents a most imposing appearance. The top gallery is ten or twelve seats deep in front, and it was full of men. Such a sight as I have never seen on any previous occasion. Oh, how I yearned over them! I felt as if it would be a small thing to die there and then, if that would have brought them to Jesus.'
Nothing short of men and women getting converted satisfied her.
'They say,' she writes of another campaign, 'the sinners here will "bide some bringing down." Well, the Lord can do it. They tell me, too, that I am immensely popular with the people. But that is no comfort unless they will be saved.'
She laboured to get the truth home to the hearts of her listeners, and that is why her talking was so blessed.
'God made you responsible,' she said, 'not for delivering the truth, but for GETTING IT IN—getting it home, fixing it in the conscience as a red- hot iron, as a bolt, straight from His throne; and He has given you also the power to do it; and if you do not do it, blood will be on your skirts. Oh, this genteel way of putting the truth! How God hates it! "If you please, dear friends, will you listen? If you please, will you be converted? Will you come to Jesus? Shall we read just this, that, and the other?" No more like apostolic preaching than darkness is like light.'
How can I show you some of the marvellous results of her preaching? In every part of our land her influence and words made themselves felt; the largest buildings were crowded with all classes of society, and glorious cases of conversion and sanctification crowned her labours everywhere. A lady who was at some of her women's Meetings at Lye, near Birmingham, tells us:—
'The women left their work, and in all sorts of odd costumes flocked to the Meetings, some with bonnets, some with shawls fastened over their head, others with little children clinging to their necks. All, with eager, inquiring faces, took their seats and listened to the gracious words which fell from the lips of dear Mrs. Booth. And when the invitation was given, what a scene ensued! It baffles all description. Crowding, weeping, rushing to the penitent-form came convicted sinners and repentant backsliders. When the form was filled the penitents dropped upon their knees in the aisles or in their seats, so that it was difficult to move about.'
When holding some Meetings in a Rotherhithe chapel (for The Army was only just beginning its work, and our Army Mother took Meetings in different churches and chapels up and down the land), the victories were just as glorious, and one of her Converts says:—
'There were many remarkable cases of conversion at these Meetings. Amongst others there were the two daughters of a publican. When one sister was saved the other went to hear Mrs. Booth on purpose to ridicule the services. But she was seized with such an agonizing realization of her sins that she came down from the top of the gallery to the penitent- form, crying out aloud, "I must come! I must come!" Soon after their father gave up the public-house, and they afterwards became members of Mr. Spurgeon's Tabernacle.
'I have seen as many as thirty persons seeking Salvation in a single Meeting, and some years afterwards, when I looked at the register of our chapel, I found about one hundred names of those who had professed to be converted at this time.'
Our Army Mother, too, was equally straight and fearless with the rich when, later on, they also came in crowds to hear her. She had but one message and one gospel for all alike. She says, 'By God's help I will not regard the person of man, but will plainly and fearlessly declare the truth, come what may.' God honoured this spirit, and her Meetings in the West-End of London, where the great and rich live, were some of the most glorious of her life. Of one such she writes:—
'The Lord has very graciously stood by me, and given me much precious fruit. Last Sunday we had the Hall crowded, and a large proportion of gentlemen. The Lord was there in power, and twenty-one came forward—some for Salvation and some for purity. Several were most blessed cases of full surrender. We did not get away till nearly six, and we began at three. Everybody is amazed at this for the West-End! The audience is very select, we never having published a bill. Pray much, dear friend, that God may do a deep and permanent work in this Babylon. It seems as though He gave me words of fire for them, and they sat spellbound.'
You say you wish you had heard her speak? Indeed, we all wish you had: you could never have forgotten it. But several of her addresses were taken down in shorthand at the time, and are reprinted in her books, so you can get and read them; and they will bless and teach you as they have taught thousands before you.
'A lady once said to me, "How have you managed to get your children converted so early?" "Oh," I said, "I have been beforehand with the Devil."'—MRS. BOOTH.
I have already told you how Mrs. Booth had the true mother spirit when but a little child, loving and tending her dolls as if they had been real babies; you will, therefore, guess that with her own children she was the best and most careful of mothers. She began early to train them in the right way, and never left them unless forced to do so.
'I cannot part with Willie,' she writes to her mother, who offered to free Mrs. Booth by taking charge of the baby for her; 'first, because I know the child's affections could not but be weaned from us; and secondly, because the next year will be the most important of his life with reference to managing his will; and in this I cannot but distrust you. I know, my darling mother, you could not wage war with his self-will so resolutely as to subdue it. And then my child would be ruined, for he must be taught implicit, uncompromising obedience.'
But long before writing this she had already claimed her boy for God and His war. 'I had from the first,' she says, 'definite longings over Bramwell, and lifted him up to God as soon as I had strength to do so, especially desiring he should be a teacher of Holiness.' These prayers began to be answered very early. The boy had a truthful and conscientious nature. Never, his mother says, does she remember his telling her a lie. But, for all that, he needed, as do all children, training and teaching, and Mrs. Booth was too wise not to be firm. She writes therefore:
'I believe he will be a thoroughly noble lad, if I can preserve him from all evil influence. The Lord help me! I have had to whip him twice lately severely for disobedience, and it has cost me some tears. But it has done him good, and I am reaping the reward already of my self-sacrifice. The Lord help me to be faithful and firm as a rock in the path of duty towards my children!'
We know how practical our Army Mother always was; sentimental pity without help she despised. When her little son, therefore, saw and pitied a small boy with shoeless feet, his mother quickly reminded him of his little money-box.
'Would you rather keep the money for barley-sugar, Willie, or give it to the poor boy?' she asked. 'Give it to the boy,' he said at once, and so learnt his first lesson in self-denial.
When the boy was seven years old he was converted, to his mother's deepest joy. Some time before she had talked to him in a Meeting, and urged him to get saved. The boy sat still and said nothing. 'Willie, I insist,' said his mother at last. 'You must answer me. Will you give your heart to God or not? Yes or no?'
Willie looked up in her face steadily and answered back 'No.'
Mrs. Booth said no more just then, but held on in faith and prayer, and some months later, to her unutterable thankfulness, she found him squeezed in among a number of other children at the penitent-form. He had, unasked, made his way there, and was weeping and confessing his sins with all his heart.
Needless to say, he was faithfully dealt with, and the boy, now our beloved General, dates his conversion from that moment. A little later Mrs. Booth wrote of him:—
'Willie has begun to serve God, of course as a child, but still, I trust, taught of the Spirit. I feel a great increase of responsibility with respect to him. Oh! to cherish the tender plant of grace aright. Lord help!'
And as with the eldest so with the other seven. One by one they gave their hearts to the Lord as soon as they grew old enough to do so.
'She used to gather us round her,' says one of her daughters,' and pray with us. I wore then a low frock, and her hot tears would often drop upon my neck, sending a thrill through me which I can never forget.'
She would pray again and again that she might lay them in their graves rather than she should see them grow up wicked.
Mrs. Booth was very particular about the way in which her children were dressed.
Of course, there was no uniform in those days, but The Army spirit was already in The Army Mother, and she would not have any finery or show, either for herself or her children.
'Accept,' she writes to her mother, 'my warm thanks for the little frock you sent. There is only one difficulty—it is too smart. We must set an example in this direction. I feel no temptation now to decorate myself, but I cannot say the same about the children; and yet, Oh, I see I must be decided. Besides, I find it would be dangerous for their own sakes. The seed of vanity is too deeply sown in their young hearts for me to dare to cultivate it.'
Even in her early days Mrs. Booth felt how wrong it was to spend time and money over dress:—
'I remember feeling condemned,' she says, 'when quite a child, not more than eight years old, at having to wear a lace tippet such as was fashionable in those days. From a worldly point of view it would have been considered, no doubt, very neat and consistent. But on several occasions I had good crying fits over it. Not only did I instinctively feel it to be immodest, because people could see through it, but I thought it was not such as a Christian child should wear.'
In everything to do with her home Mrs. Booth was a most practical and careful mother. She hated waste and luxury, but her children were always properly dressed and fed and cared for, and never lacked what was necessary for them.
Ladies who had been blessed by her words came to consult her about their souls, and to their surprise found the great preacher, not shut away in her study, but hard at work perhaps ironing the baby's pinafores, or cutting out a pair of trousers for one of her boys! 'I must try,' she said, when she began to live this two-fold life, 'to do all in the kitchen as well as in the pulpit to the glory of God. The Lord help me.' He did help her, and it was this practical mother-spirit at home which gave her so much force and power on the platform.
As the children grew older, they were more away from her side, and her letters to them are suitable, not only to her actual sons and daughters, but to her spiritual grandchildren who will read this little book. Therefore I am going to give you some extracts, which you may take as though written by our Army Mother straight to your own heart.
To one of her boys at school she wrote:—
'I do hope you are industrious, and do not lose time in play and inattention. Remember Satan steals his marches on us by littles—a minute now, and a minute then. Be on the look out, and don't be cheated by him!
'All your little trials will soon be over, so far as school life is concerned; and every one of them, if borne with patience, will make you a wiser and better man. Never forget my advice about not listening to secrets! Don't hear anything that needs to be whispered—it is sure to be bad. Choose the boys to be your companions who most love and fear God, and pray together when you can, and help each other.'
Here is a very beautiful letter written when one of her children desired to go in for some higher education, which Mrs. Booth feared might spoil the soul life:—
'I do so want you and all my children to live supremely for God. I do so deeply deplore my own failure compared with what my life might have been, and I feel as if I could die to save you from making a mistake. Perhaps you say, "You don't want me, then, to learn any more?" Yes, I do, a great deal more; but of the right kind, in the right way, and for a right purpose, even the highest good of your race. I would like you to learn to put your thoughts together well, to think logically and clearly, to speak powerfully—that is, with good but simple language—and to write clearly and well.'
Just the wish we have now for all our Young People!
Early in their childhood the elder children were taught to be responsible for the younger, and when at school they were given places of trust as monitors, and so on. As if knowing the responsibilities they would by and by be called to fill in our ranks, Mrs. Booth gives them some wise counsel:—
'I hope,' she says to one who has been left in charge of the other children, 'you will show yourself to be a true son of your mother, and a consistent disciple of the Lord. Very much depends on you as to the ease and comfort of managing the little ones. Do all you can. Be forbearing where only your own feelings or comfort are concerned, and don't raise unnecessary difficulties; but where their obedience to us or their health is at stake, be firm in trying to put them right.'
'I am pleased,' she says to one of the boys who has been in charge of others at school, 'that Mr. W. puts such confidence in you; but do not be puffed up by it. Remember how weak you are, and ask the Lord to save you from conceit and self-sufficiency. Try to be fair and just in all dealings with the boys—i.e., do not be hard on a boy whom you may not happen to like so well as another; but be fair, and treat all alike when left in charge.'
Again, she warns one of them against extremes, even in well doing:
'You are under a mistake to suppose that sacrificing your recreation-time will help you in the end. It will not. Cramming the mind acts just in the same way as cramming the stomach. It is what you digest well that benefits you, not what you cram in. So many hours spent in study, and then relaxation and walking, will do your mind much more good than "all work, and no play." Now mark this. Do not be looking so much at what you have to do as to what you are doing. Leave the future (you may spend it in Heaven), and go steadily on doing to-day's work in to-day's hours, with recreation in between to shake the seed in. One step well and firmly taken is better than two with a slip backwards. Poor human nature seems as though it must go to extremes—either all or none, too much or too little, idleness or being killed with work! May the Lord show you the happy medium.'
'I was sorry about the cause of the accident. I don't like that way of doing things in fun! Though it was very wrong and wicked of the boy to throw the brick, yet it would have been better to let him look at the guinea-pigs being fed, and thus have pleased him. There was no harm in what he wanted to do. You should watch against a hectoring spirit, and mind the difference between a sacrifice of truth and principle, and one only of self-importance or of mere feeling. If a boy wants you to do wrong, then be firm as a rock and brave for God and goodness.'
'Mind your soul,' she says at another time. 'Do not let your thoughts get so absorbed, even in study, as to lead you to forget your Bible and to neglect prayer.'
Later, again, as a wise mother she warns them in the tenderest way against their special temptations.
'Be watchful against levity. C. is a good, devoted fellow, but naturally an incorrigible joker. It may not hurt him much, because it is his nature; but it will hurt you if you give way to it. It hurts nearly everybody.
Watch! Don't descend to buffoonery. While you become all things to win some, don't forfeit your natural self-respect and the dignity of your position as a servant of Christ.'
Against too much talk:—
'The Spirit is teaching you this—is showing you that you must be more silent. The tongue is one of the greatest enemies to grace (James iii. 5-13). Strive to obey these teachings of God. Yield yourself up to obey; and though you sometimes fail and slip, do not be discouraged, but yield yourself up again and again, and plead more fervently with God to keep you. Fourteen years ago you were learning to walk, and in the process you got many a tumble. But now you can not only walk yourself, but teach others. So, spiritually, if you will only let God lead you, He will perfect that which is lacking in you.'
But it was not at first easy for the mother-spirit in Mrs. Booth to allow her delicate girls of fourteen or fifteen to undertake a public life, and to speak and sing at the street corners, surrounded by a rough, low crowd. Such a thing was unheard-of in those days.
Once, hearing that her daughter Catherine had spoken in the open air to a large crowd, Mrs. Booth objected, as other mothers have since objected: the girl was too young as yet—she must wait awhile.
But her eldest son, looking at his mother in the tenderest and most solemn way, said, 'Mamma, dear, you will have to settle this question with God; for Katie is as surely called and inspired by Him for the particular work as you are yourself.'
Mrs. Booth said no more. She took this as the voice of God, and gave her girl up to the marvellous work which God had called her to do.
Later she writes of her to a friend:—
'Join me in praying that she may be kept humble and simple, and that all that the Lord has given her may be used for Him.'
'I see,' she says, writing at this same time to her daughter, 'what a glorious, blessed, useful life you may live; but I also see your danger, and I pray for you that you may be enabled to cast aside the world in every form, to look down upon its opinions, and to despise its spirit, maxims, and fashions.'
Later on, again, came the days when the boys had to choose, as you have to do, how they would spend their lives. Mrs. Booth might be writing to a Corps Cadet of to-day when, in a letter to one of her sons, she says:—
'I hope the Lord will make you so miserable everywhere and at everything else that you will be compelled to preach! Oh, my boy, the Lord wants such as you—just such—to go out amongst the people, seeking nothing but the things that are Jesus Christ's! You are free to do it; able by His grace; born to do it, with splendid opportunities. Will you not rise to your destiny? "Have courage, and be strong, and I (the I Am) will be with thee." "Get thee out, and I will go with thee." Dare you not take hold of the arm that holds the world and all things up? And if you do, can you fail? The Lord gird you with His strength, and make your brow brass, and your tongue as a flame of fire. You must preach!'
To another of her boys she writes:—
'You may, perhaps, be wanted to stand and do battle for the Lord. Surely you will not sell your birthright? The Lord help you! Take hold of David's God. Hold your head up, keep your shoulders back, and go forward.'
'This is what the world wants: men of one idea—that of getting people saved. There are plenty of men of one idea—that of gold-getting. They make no secret of it; they are of a worldly spirit. Now we want men who are set on soul-saving, who are not ashamed to let everybody know it —men of a Christ-like spirit. There need be no mistake or mystery about it. "By their fruits ye shall know them." Paul and every other man of like spirit has had his fruits, and will have to the end of time. It is "Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts."'
With one of her daughters she reasons and pleads:—
'Oh, it seems to me that if I were in your place—young, no cares or anxieties, with such a start, such influence, and such a prospect—I should not be able to contain myself for joy! I should, indeed, aspire to be the "bride of the Lamb," and to follow Him in conflict for the Salvation of poor, lost, miserable man. I pray the Lord to show it to you, and so to enamour you of Himself, that you may see and feel it to be your chief joy to win them for Him. I say I pray for this—yes, I groan for it, with groanings that cannot be uttered; and if ever you tell me it is so, I shall be overjoyed.
'I don't want you to make any vows (unless, indeed, the Spirit leads you to do so); but I want you to set your mind and heart on winning souls, and to leave everything else with the Lord. When you do this you will be happy—Oh, so happy! Your soul will then find perfect rest. The Lord grant it to you, my dear child.'
She made all her children feel that the only reward they could give her for her ceaseless toil and labour on their behalf was that they should give themselves to the War:—
'I hope, my dear boy, that, whatever sense of obligation or gratitude you have towards me, you will try to return it by resolutely resisting all temptation to evil, and by fitting yourself to your utmost to be useful to your fellow-men. I ask from you, as I asked from God, no other reward. If I know my own heart, I would rather that you should work for the Salvation of souls, making bad hearts good, and miserable homes happy, and preparing joy and gladness for men at the Judgment bar, if you only get bread and cheese all your life, than that you should fill any other capacity with L10,000 per year.'
To one of her children, when tempted to be over-anxious, she writes:—
'Keep your mind quiet. Lean back on God, and don't worry. It is His affair, and if you have done what you could, that is enough. Alas! how little we have of the faith that can "stand still, and see the Salvation of God." What would you do if you were put in custody for two years, like Paul was? And yet that imprisonment at Rome sent the Gospel far and wide! God's ways are not our ways. He takes in the whole field at once, and does the best He can for the entire world. Human wisdom never has been able at the time to comprehend His plans, but years after it has often seen their wisdom. Let us learn to trust in the dark—to stand still.'
To another, tried and discouraged at the start of his public life:—
'I have only a minute or two; but, lest you should think I don't sympathize with you, I send you a line. You ask, did I ever feel so? Yes, I think just as bad as any mortal could feel—empty, inside and out, as though I had nothing human or Divine to aid me, as if all Hell were let loose upon me.
But I have generally felt the worse before the best results, which proves it was Satanic opposition. And it has been the same with many of God's most honoured instruments. I believe nearly all who are truly called of God to special usefulness pass through this buffeting.
'It stands to sense, if there is a Devil, that he should desperately withstand those whom he sees are going to be used of God. Supposing you were the Devil, and had set your heart on circumventing God, how would you do it but by opposing those who were bent on building up His Kingdom? He hopes to drive us from the field by blood and fire and vapour of smoke. But our Captain fought and won the battle for us, and we have only to hold on long enough, and victory is sure. "Courage!" your Captain cries. "Only be thou strong, and of good courage, and I will be with thee, and teach thee what to say."
'"He hath chosen the weak things." He has not made shift with them—taken them because there were no others. No! He hath chosen them. Will He ever forsake them, and thus make Himself a laughing-stock for Hell? Never! Will He ever let the Devil say, "Ah, ah! He chose this weak one, and then let him fail"? No, no, no!'
On the important question of courtship, she writes:—
'The Devil sets such innocent-looking traps—spiritual traps—to catch young people! Ah, he is a serpent still! Beware of his devices, and always cry to God for wisdom and strength of will to put down all foolish tampering. You are born for greater things. God may want you to be a leader in some vast continent, and you will want a companion and a counsellor—a "helpmeet." The original word means "a help corresponding to his dignity" This is the meaning given by the best expositors. Oh, what wisdom there is even in the words which God has chosen to express His ideas! "Corresponding to his dignity!" Yes, and no man ever takes one below this mark who does not suffer for it; and, worse still, generations yet unborn have to suffer also. Mind what God says, and keep yourself till that one comes.