Catherine Booth one of the Army’s Best Men!

This is the day that … Catherine Booth died, in 1890.

Catherine Booth (nee Mumford), was born to a coachbuilder in Derbyshire, in 1829. She read the Bible eight times by the age of twelve, but was converted at the age of 15, when the words of a hymn led her to assurance of salvation.

At fourteen she developed spinal curvature and four years later, incipient tuberculosis. While ill in bed she began writing magazine articles against alcohol.

Catherine met William Booth, a Methodist minister in 1852. Catherine was impressed with both the sermon and the young preacher.

William believed ministers should be “loosing the chains of injustice, freeing the captive and oppressed, sharing food and home, clothing the naked, and carrying out family responsibilities.” While keen on social reform, Catherine, an avowed feminist, disagreed with William’s views on women. She objected to William describing women as the “weaker sex” and she argued that women should preach, while William opposed the idea. Despite their disagreements about the role of women in the church, the couple married on 16th June 1855.

Catherine first preached in1860 when a strange compulsion seized her and she felt she must rise and speak. The sermon so impressed William that he changed his mind about women preachers. Catherine Booth soon developed a reputation as an outstanding speaker but many Christians were outraged by the idea. Lord Shaftesbury regarded William as the antichrist for his promotion of women preachers. Booth later wrote, “some of the best men in my Army are women”!

When William created the Salvation Army she took her place as the beloved mother of the movement. She particularly inspired young ladies to preach and evangelise, including her own daughters. She journeyed to Paris to help her daughter Catherine and a handful of other young ladies set up the Salvation Army there.

Some said that Catherine’s sermons were as good as her husband’s. Certainly many were converted under her ministry.

For 30 years she and her husband waged war on sin and reached out a loving hand to England’s poor and needy.

She also took social action including the Food For A Million Shops, where poor could buy an inexpensive three-course meal. She was angered by the sweated labour that many women were subjected to, working 14 hours a day for a pittance. Bryant and May matches also used yellow phosphorous that poisoned the women working with it. She began a campaign that her husband completed after her death, to end the use of yellow phosphorous.

Eventually she found herself on the banks of ‘chilly Jordan’. She writes from her deathbed – to the 20,000 gathered in the Crystal Palace:

“My dear Children and Friends, My place is empty but my heart is with you. You are my joy and my crown. Your battles, sufferings and victories have been the chief interest of my life these 25 years. They are still. Go forward … live holy lives … love and seek the lost; bring them to the blood … I am dying under the Army flag; it is yours to live and fight under. God is my salvation and refuge in the storm. I send you my love and blessing. Catherine Booth.”

On Saturday, 4 October, 1890, the old General and his family gathered around Catherine’s bed. They prayed. They sang. Such grand old hymns as:
Calvary’s stream is flowing so free,
Flowing for you and for me.

“Go on,” Catherine said … and they sang some more –
Jesus, my Saviour, has died on the tree,
Died on the tree for me! Hallelujah!

Eventually, unable to speak, Catherine Booth pointed to the text hanging upon the wall, which read, “My Grace is sufficient for thee”. “That”, writes her biographer, “was her last testimony to God’s faithfulness.”

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History, which I previously considered to be a little stuffy and of little practical value. I find in the process of updating Don’s Christian Diary that I am being constantly refreshed, illuminated or challenged by the lives of those who have gone before.

Australia’s First Female Governor General

For the first time in Australia’s existence as a nation it is to have a female Governor General. It has been announced that Queensland’s Governor, Quentin Bryce, has been appointed to replace Major General Michael Jeffery when he retires at the end of his five year term, in July this year. This gives Mrs Bryce the privilege of becoming Australia’s first female Governor General.

The role of Governor General in Australia is often seen as purely ceremonial. Quentin Bryce’s term as Australian Governor General will be filled with official functions. Any Australian Governor General, male or female, carries a high-profile surrounded by pomp and circumstance. But the role is much more than ceremonial. An Australian Governor General is much more than a rubber stamp to the decisions of the Australian Parliament.

In simple terms there are three entities who wield political power in Australia. The first level of political power in Australia is the people of Australia. The Australian Constitution enshrines the right of each Australian citizen to nominate who they will allow to exercise government over them. That is why, at each election, Australian politicians must come, hat in hand, to woo the support of the most powerful political entity in the nation. If the people do not assign authority to a politician then that politician is just another citizen. The second level of authority, then, is the elected representatives, politicians. They can exercise political privilege, delegated to them by the Australian people, on various terms, such as a limited duration of their tenure. The laws they can pass are limited by the Australian Constitution.

Since power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, those who created the Australian Constitution sought to find an effective balance of power. With the British and American experiences to draw from the drafters of the Australian Constitution sought to find an effective balance between the people, who own the land, and the politicians those people elect to govern the land. Since two competing parties could always come to a stalemate a third party was created to protect the most important element of Australian society – the people.

In the British system the Monarchy, which once ruled with absolute power, had been forced to share power with both politicians and the people. Huge social landmarks were crossed in the process, such as establishing all people equal under the law, including the King. The new (in relative terms) role for the monarch was no longer to govern, nor to yield absolute power, but to be the protector of the people who they once ruled, defending them against the potential abuses of politicians. The Monarch (King or Queen as the case may be from time to time) had long had to acknowledge that his or her place was a privilege they held under God’s authority. They could not take office until they had sworn to honour God and to uphold the Bible as the book from which society was to be governed. In so doing, the King or Queen became God’s agent for the protection of the people.

Little more than a century ago, when the Australian Constitution was drafted, the relatively new role for the Monarchy was appreciated and built into the Australian governmental model. A representative of the British Monarch was to be appointed as the Australian Head of State, extending the British Monarch’s divine mandate to uphold the Bible as the rule of law and the basis for society. This person who functioned as the Head of State, designated the Australian Governor General, stood to protect the Australian people from their elected politicians.

Once an ordinary citizen has become a politician and been elevated to a place of political power over others that person ceases to be ‘ordinary’ and may be tempted to exploit their privilege by abusing the very people who placed them in power. They might decide, for instance, that they should have privileges others do not have. So, every law that Australian politicians can legally make has to go through a final vetting process. The only ones empowered to make such rules are the politicians. To protect the Australian people from abuses of that political power, the Australian Governor General must give authority to those rules by signing them into law.

It is convention that the Governor General of Australia do just that, sign the laws that have been crafted by Parliament. But this is not to suggest that they are a mere rubber stamp. Any true Governor General recognises their place as a protector of the Australian people and upholder of the Bible as the rule of law. If they see any law being promulgated by an elected parliament that opposes the Biblical mandate for social law and order, they have the authority, right and responsibility to oppose that law and refuse to sign it into existence.

Further than this, an Australian Governor General can even take the drastic measure of removing a government which they deem to have exceeded its privileges and to be acting in a manner that is damaging to the people of Australia. Such actions are rare to the point of near extinction, except for the amazing example of Sir John Kerr, Australian Governor General between 1974 and 1977, who dismissed the Australian Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam.

So Mrs Quentin Bryce, in becoming Australia’s Head of State, as the first Australian female Governor General, becomes a hero of the Australian people. She is their protector. She is the one who has the power to protect them from their elected parliamentary politicians. She is the one who must weigh each law against the Bible and determine whether it upholds or contradicts what God has charged her to live by.

Let us all pray that she does what she is being given the privilege to do.