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

Rodney Gipsy Smith Evangelist

Rodney “Gipsy” Smith was born in a gypsy tent near Epping Forest, England, on March 31, 1860. Rodney’s dad, Cornelius, made a living by playing violin in the taverns and was converted through a prison chaplain on one of his numerous imprisonments for failure to pay fines. Rodney’s mother died from smallpox when he was young and Rodney was “born again” through the encouragement of his father, in a Primitive Methodist Chapel in Cambridge on 17 November, 1876.

Rodney’s mother confessed Christ on her deathbed and all six children went into Christian service.

Having been born to a gipsy lifestyle, young Rodney had no proper education. Rodney carried a Bible and Dictionaries with him and when people mocked he reassured himself with the knowledge that one day he would be able to read them. At the age of 17 “this unschooled, unlettered gipsy became an evangelist under the auspices of William Booth’s Christian Mission of London, which became the Salvation Army” (25 June, 1877).

On December 17, 1879 he married Annie E. Pennock, one of his converts from Whitby. He had also led his younger sister to confess Christ.

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For five years he served the Salvation Army “on street corners and in mission halls”.  His evangelistic gift was evident to all who heard him.  But on 31 July, 1882, after he was about to move on from a successful mission in Hanley (“I preached every Sunday to crowds of 7,000 to 8,000 people and every night of the week we had the place crowded” (Autobiography, page 131), the congregation presented him with a watch inscribed:  “A memento of esteem and in recognition of his valuable services …” General Bramwell Booth demanded that the watch be returned!  He “did not approve of such presentations” (page 133).  “So ended my connection with the Salvation Army” (page 139).

Defying his superiors, “Gipsy” Smith launched out on an itinerant evangelistic ministry, which took him to Sweden, Scotland, America, South Africa, France and Australia (in 1894 and again in 1926).  Certainly thousands responded to his preaching and singing of the old-time gospel.

On 2 June, 1938, he aroused some criticism by marrying Mary Alice Shaw.  After all, he was a 78-year-old widower … and it was her 27th birthday!  His services were always informal … “I’ll be stiff enough when I’m in my coffin!” he once quipped.

On 4 August, 1947, at the age of 87, after 70 years of world-embracing evangelism and en route to America, three hours out of New York, “Gipsy” Smith died on the Queen Mary, stricken by a heart attack. Some say this was his 45th crossing of the Atlantic.

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

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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

Harry A Ironside Gives In to God

Harry A Ironside passed from time into eternity during a visit to New Zealand, on January 16, 1951.

Born in Toronto, Canada, October 14, 1876, Harry Ironside grew up in the Plymouth Brethren movement. His parents were eager soul-winners, and his dad was known as “The Eternity Man” because he frequently asked people, “Where will you spend eternity?” However he died at age 27, when Harry was only 2 years old.

Harry’s mum also had a newborn baby and so she struggled to maintain her infant family. What Harry lacked in finance and education he made up in abundance in his religious inclinations. However, he had not found true salvation.

When the family moved to San Francisco, when he was ten, he even started a local Sunday School and preached to average crowds of 60, including some adults. When he heard Dwight L Moody preach in his city to a packed Pavilion, Harry prayed that he would one day have a similar ministry. 42 years later he became pastor of the church which Moody founded.

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In 1889 an old evangelist friend of the family, Donald Munro, challenged Ironside that the boy’s preaching did not make him a Christian. This so impacted Ironside that gave up his Sunday School and struggled for six months over the issue of his salvation.

In February 1990, at age 13, he trusted in the truth of Proverbs 1:24-32, and confessed Christ as his saviour.

Soon after his conversion Ironside joined the Salvation Army and won his first convert in the open air preaching. Then with six months of training he was commissioned as Lieutenant. Later, during General Booth’s visit to San Francisco, he became “Special Orderly Officer to the General”, and Captain. General Booth influenced me more than anyone else …” he testified later, “with the need of reaching the lost for Christ.”

Ironside worked full time around California, preaching and working for the Salvation Army. But whilst wholeheartedly agreeing with the Salvationists on their evangelistic emphasis, Harry found it difficult to agree with their teaching concerning Holiness, the Second Blessing. He saw that the Salvationists looked for personal holiness from within themselves, when it came from the work of Christ. He was almost burned out after five years of constant and vigorous work for the Army.

So he resigned, and for 30 years became widely known as a Brethren evangelist and Bible teacher.

He helped British evangelist, Henry Varley’s San Francisco campaign in 1897and there took an interest in the pianist, Helen Schofield, who was also an ex-Salvation Army member. The couple were wed on January 5, 1898 and a year later their family started. That union lasted for fifty years.

The life of an evangelist was taxing. In the years from 1916 to 1929, Ironside was constantly on the move, preaching nearly 7,000 times to over one million people. He had no vacations and was always busy, even in sickness and weariness.

In 1930 he became pastor of the famous Moody Memorial Church, and also travelled extensively to speak at conventions. Most weeks he would leave Chicago on a Sunday night and not return until the following Saturday, so he could preach on Sunday.

He also accepted frequent ministry invitations in Britain, and also travelled to Europe and Palestine

Thirty books came from his able pen. His writings make him one of the most prolific Christian authors in the 20th century.

He was related, by marriage, to Mr Robert Laidlaw, well-known New Zealand businessman and author of The Reason Why.

Ironside is described as one of the greatest Bible teachers the world has ever known and the most known Christian leader of his era, outside of Billy Sunday whose funeral he preached. He was affectionately known as “the archbishop of Fundamentalism”.

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

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

Samuel Logan Brengle Yields To God

Samuel Logan Brengle records that ‘something’ happened to him on January 9, 1885. Maybe some will quibble over the terminology, whether you call it the ‘Baptism with the Holy Spirit’ or ‘Entire Sanctification’ or ‘Second Blessing’, but he was transformed into one of the most zealous evangelists the Salvation Army has ever known.

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Brengle was born in Fredericksburg, Indiana, USA, June 1, 1860. His father joined the Union army when the boy was two, and was wounded during the American Civil War. The former schoolteacher died from his wounds after returning home, leaving his young bride to raise their only child on her own.

She was a godly woman who always took her son to church, despite her subsequent remarriage and many moves in the ensuing years.

During revival meetings in the small town of Olney, Illinois, young Samuel went to the altar five nights in a row, seeking elusive peace with God. He did not receive any inner witness of conversion in his soul until he later referred to himself as a “Christian” while talking with his mother. The sudden and glorious witness in his heart was music to his soul.

When he reacted to a schoolyard taunt by punching the offender he realised the evil in his own heart and could not find peace until he repented before God.

These lessons of the heart led him to serve the Lord and his keenness led those around him to commend him to lessons with an excellent professor in a nearby town. When his mother died he threw himself into his studies, going to DePauw University at age 17, where he was noted as a brilliant scholar.

The Lord led him to abandon his political aspirations for the pulpit, so he studied theology and cultivated ambitions to become a preacher of note. Under the godly instruction of Dr Daniel Steele Brengle says, “I saw the humility of Jesus and my pride; the meekness of Jesus and my temper; the lowliness of Jesus and my ambition; the purity of Jesus and my unclean heart; the faithfulness of Jesus and the deceitfulness of my heart; the unselfishness of Jesus and my selfishness; the trust and faith of Jesus and my doubts and unbelief; the holiness of Jesus and my unholiness. I got my eyes off everybody but Jesus and myself, and I came to loathe myself.”

Brengle maintained an ongoing tussle between personal ambition to have his oratory win him fame, and his desire to have all of God’s power at work within him. The two ambitions were mutually exclusive.

Already famous as an eloquent Methodist circuit-ridin’ preacher, it was on January 9, 1885 that Brengle laid his all on the altar. “Lord,” he prayed, “I want to be an eloquent preacher, but if by stammering and stuttering I can bring greater glory to Thee than by eloquence … then let me stammer and stutter.” (S.L. Brengle, by C. Hall, page 49). And he meant it! “So hungrily does he yearn for complete cleansing and holiness,” his biographer continues, “that the very vehicle of his destiny is thrown upon the altar.”

A few days later Brengle experienced a further touch from God. “It was a Heaven of love that came into my heart. My soul melted like wax before fire. I sobbed and sobbed. I loathed myself that I had ever sinned against Him or doubted Him or lived for myself and not for His glory. Every ambition for self was now gone.”

Then he met General William Booth … and joined the Salvation Army. On page 74 of this inspiring biography we find him blacking the boots of his fellow cadets. This was one of Booth’s requirements, to test the heart of those in training. Brengle struggled with the menial task, but then surrendered to the Lord and found joy in serving others. On page 191 we see him promoted to the rank of Commissioner!

Brengle continued as an eloquent and effective preacher, but not without opposition and challenge. The task of street preaching exposed him to violence from the public. However, the Lord had plans even with that. Some of the valuable books which Brengle wrote were penned during convalescence following being badly injured by a brick thrown at his head while street preaching.

There came from his pen some powerful volumes, calling the reader to Holiness and Soul-winning.

As a faithful soldier of Jesus Christ, Samuel Logan Brengle “was Promoted to Glory” (as the Salvationists delight to describe it), on 20 May, 1936. In his final message written for the Salvation Army War Cry magazine he had stated, “Go forward where He leads in glad obedience and in willing self-denial, and you will find with me that ‘at evening time it shall be light’. Hallelujah!” (S.L. Brengle, by W. Clark, page 147).

He was described by one observer as a “kindly, literate and articulate man who left good memories with nearly everyone he met”.

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

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

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.