Anthony Ashley-Cooper Blesses the Helpless

Anthony Ashley-Cooper, Seventh Earl of Shaftesbury, was born in London on April 28, 1801. He was to become the “outstanding Christian layman of the 19th century,” writes JC Pollock in his magnificent biography of this man of God.

Born into aristocracy, young Lord Ashley had his course in life moulded by a godly housekeeper, Maria Mills. When he entered parliament in 1826 he brought his strong evangelical convictions to bear on a variety of social evils.  Child labour … cruelty to workers … “in the mines and the factories, in the prisons and asylums, among the waifs of the cities and the toilers on the rural farms, he effected reforms by which life was simply transfigured. Existence for countless thousands was scarcely tolerable until he came to their relief. He revolutionised the whole industrial world” (Dr FW Boreham).

Lord Shaftesbury became president of the British and Foreign Bible Society and worked alongside such other evangelical bodies as the London Missionary Society and the Church Missionary Society.

At his death, on 1 October, 1885, thousands lined the streets to pay their final respects as the funeral cortege made its way to St Giles’ Church.

The Temperance Society Band played Safe in the Arms of Jesus, and in that vast crowd there were none that doubted that was true of “the poor man’s Earl” – the Seventh Earl of Shaftesbury.

A more complete history of Lord Shaftesbury can be found at: http://chrisfieldblog.com/ministry/church-history/lord-shaftesbury

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This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: www.donaldprout.com

Find hundreds of succinct Church History posts at: http://chrisfieldblog.com/topics/ministry/church-history

William Booth Passion for Souls

William Booth was born, on April 10, 1829.

In his massive 987-page biography, Harold Begbie claims that he was “one of the most signal figures in human history.”  Amen!  But when that little tot arrived in a humble, poor cottage of a builder, in Nottingham, England, the parents never dreamed what lay in store for their baby son.

Before he died his name would be a household word around the world.  Royalty would be delighted to meet him.  Sixty-five thousand would file past his coffin in silent tribute; thousands more around the world would thank God for this grand old warrior of the cross, William Booth.

Converted at the age of 15, he embraced the Wesleyan doctrine of Holiness, and soon became one of their local preachers.

In 1849 William relocated to London and worked in a pawnbroker’s shop at Walworth. He was touched by the needs of the poor and came to the conclusion that ministers should attend to “loosing the chains of injustice, freeing the captive and oppressed, sharing food and home, clothing the naked, and carrying out family responsibilities”.

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On his 33rd birthday he fell in love with Catherine Mumford.  By this time he was a full-time pastor – and she was one of the congregation.  They married on 16 June, 1855, and she soon became a vibrant co-worker. She had strong ideas about the role of women and pressed on William her claim and the right of other women to take active part in the ministry.

The Methodists refused to release him for an itinerant evangelistic ministry, so William resigned.  With his beloved wife at his side, they blazed a trail across England in pursuit of souls – first with the Methodist Church for 14 years, and then as superintendent of the “Christian Revival Association“, an organisation that was later to change its name to “The Salvation Army“.

Booth sought ways to reach the poor, illiterate and those who had never before been attracted to the gospel. He emphasised joyful singing, the use of musical instruments – thus the Salvation Army bands, clapping of hands and salvation appeals in the meetings.

Despite hostility from mobs and churches alike (Lord Shaftesbury called Booth the “Anti-Christ” – Echoes and Memories, by Bramwell Booth, page 40), yet thousands were converted.  “Go for souls, and go for the worst”, was his advice to the men and women who sallied forth to rescue the devil’s captives.

Booth’s evangelistic work in London’s East End made him aware of the working conditions of women working at the Bryant & May factory there.

J Evan Smith, for many years Booth’s private secretary, writes: “The secret of William Booth’s success was his burning passion for the souls of men. The centre and citadel of his power was the strength of his love for souls. He had an unshakeable confidence in God’s ability to save the worst” (Booth the Beloved, page 90).

Something of this grand old warrior’s burden for souls can be seen in his words spoken to his son.  The operation had been a failure and the old General learned that he was blind. “Well, Bramwell,  I’ve done what I could for God and for the people with my eyes – now I shall do what I can for God and for the people without my eyes!”

General Booth “lay down his sword” – as the Salvation Army puts it – on 20 August, 1912.

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This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: www.donaldprout.com

Find hundreds of succinct Church History posts at: http://chrisfieldblog.com/topics/ministry/church-history

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.

Lord Shaftesbury Stands Up for the Abused

This is the day that …Anthony Ashley-Cooper died in 1885 at the age of 84.

Better known as Lord Shaftesbury, he has been described as “the outstanding Christian layman of the 19th century.”

He was born on 28 April 1801 at 24 Grosvenor Square, London, the oldest son of the sixth earl of Shaftesbury. With strong family connections and good academics at Oxford he was well set for a political career. He became Lord of the Admiralty in 1834, but he chose not to run for prominence in any party, in order to more effectively help people in need.

A committed Christian he was active in support of organizations which took the gospel and the Bible to ordinary people, such as the British and Foreign Bible Society, the Church Missionary Society, YMCA and the London City Mission.

His first social cause was the plight of lunatics who were treated most inhumanely. He stuck with that cause and changed the relevant legislation through his life.

His next cause was to limit the working day in mills to 10 hours per day. This was vehemently opposed but he eventually won out. He was a man of action and he strengthened his case on many issues by first-hand investigation of the conditions. He visited hospitals and met many who were maimed and deformed through their working conditions.

He then campaigned against women and children being used in mines. Children as young as four spent 12 hours a day on all fours, pulling carts in the dark. He freed women and any child under 13 years from working in mines.

Then he took on the cause of boys apprenticed to chimney sweeps. Then came education of the neglected poor, leading to the setting up of “ragged schools” through which 10,000 children were assisted in his lifetime.

Then he turned his attention to providing quality housing for underprivileged, creating model villages and establishing thousands of well-equipped homes that were affordable to the working class.

Always the aristocrat he was keen to promote evangelical endeavour where he found it. However he objected to the Salvation Army due to its equal treatment of women in leadership, to which he disagreed. He labelled William Booth as the “antichrist”.

It was he who led the fight against child labour … five year-olds ankle deep in water working pumps in rat-infested mines … children forced to climb and clean chimneys by unscrupulous masters … and the cruelty often inflicted upon small children who worked 12 or 14 hours a day in the mills.

He was chairman of the Ragged Schools Union for 39 years … he supported the newly formed British and Foreign Bible Society … and the Protestant Alliance … and the Church Missionary Society … and the Young Men’s Christian Association (which was Christian in those days!) And more!

On his deathbed he asked for Psalm 23 to be read to him each morning, and “frequently those present heard him murmur his favourite prayer, ‘Even so, come, Lord Jesus’.”

Don Prout recommends: If you can get hold of a copy of John Pollock’s biography of this great man called Shaftesbury, the Poor Man’s Earl, read it! Or Grace Irwin’s The Seventh Earl is equally fascinating. Or, I Stand Alone by Jenny Robertson.

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.