The Salvation Army and Evangelism
Salvation was central to Salvation Army theology. However, the peculiarity of the Army's view of salvation did not come from doctrinal formulation. There was no new theology here.
In the first article of the only issue of The Salvationist, the new title for The Christian Mission Magazine, Booth strongly declared:
"We believe in the old-fashioned salvation. We have not developed and improved into Universalism, Unitarianism, or Nothingarianism, or any other form of infidelity, and we don't expect to. Ours is just the same salvation taught in the Bible, proclaimed by Prophets and Apostles, preached by Luther and Wesley, and Whitfield .... ~
Continuing, Booth wrote, "We believe the world needs it, this and this alone will set it right. We want no other nostrum -- nothing new.''
Booth could lump Luther, Wesley, and Whitfield together and do it comfortably because neither he nor his earlier mission nor his later Army was concerned with fine points of doctrine. The early Army was concerned with basic truths. Booth, writing in an 1868 issue of his mission magazine, The East London Evangelist, made clear that the concern of his magazine would not be with different opinions and minor points of doctrine and discipline. He would avoid these concerns "... so that Christ and Him crucified be held as the only ground of a sinner's hope here and hereafter."
This idea of salvation created a tension with the thought of the day. As stated earlier, the Victorian mind argued for self-help. Individual effort, genius, and industry were the tools of success. Ignorance was the enemy of success and so education and cultural refinement were considered to be the answers to the social dilemma of heathenism and debauchery in the lower classes. In the early years of the nineteenth century, charity was not widely practiced and individuals were encouraged to help themselves. By the 1890s, Kathleen Heasman pointed out, "It was beginning to be realized that social distress was not necessarily the fault of the character of the individual but quite often was caused by economic factors entirely outside of his control.'' Even with the growing awareness that character was not the only structure of life that needed reshaping, the social conscience of the nation was moved to experiment with many different social schemes in an effort to find the right formula for success. The Salvation Army argued that salvation was the answer. Sinners needed saving. True they needed help; they needed training, encouragement, and support. But this would be to no avail unless they were made conscious of their alienation from God and their need of a savior who could forgive them of their sins, recreate their spirits, and live in and through them.
The Army found a tension between itself and the prevailing thought of the day, not only in the recognition of sin and the understanding of salvation, but in the understanding of sin as well. As mentioned, self-interest was lauded in nineteenth-century England. The Army argued that sin was universal, that each and every person was a sinner, totally depraved, and that the essence of that sin was self-interest. In The Christian Mission Magazine of 1877, Mrs. Booth clarified the nature of universal sin.
This is just the point where human nature has failed from the beginning. Our first parents fell here. Their consciences were on the right side, but their wills yielded to the persuasions of the enemy. THIS IS SIN. The committal of the will to unlawful self-gratification.
Selfishness as the essence of sin was given official theological recognition in the Army's doctrine book of 1881: "... all are at heart alike, given up to the gratification of their own selfishness, and utterly indifferent to the claims of God and the happiness of mankind." The Army was certainly receptive to the idea that selfishness was not only a universal sin problem, but the cause of all social problems. In The Darkest England Gazette, the official newspaper of the Army's social operations, a writer asserted: "... my own personal experience has convinced me that the real cause of all the present miseries and difficulties is the selfishness of man." He went on to argue:
In the East End as well as the West End, amongst all classes, wherever there is no restraining or hallowing religious influence, I find a mean, contemptible, damning, selfish spirit, which undoubtedly is the very bottom and real cause of all of our misery.
The leading voices of English social concern cried for natural effort in retraining and sharing the wealth of learning. They scolded a belligerent class for its lack of self-discipline and inordinate appetite for the things of the flesh. The Army called for a supernatural work of salvation that could only be accomplished by God working through his people. The poor were not the only ones who erred. The whole of English society was missing the mark, including secularists who had little use for religion and the Church. Salvation alone was the ultimate answer to the problem of sin, and the Army believed that this was God's plan, established from the beginning of all beginnings. It also believed that God had called the Army to cry out the message of salvation in a wilderness of evangelical apathy and moral degradation. The Army stood against some of the general trends of its day, and yet succeeded.
The Army's theology was fueled by its consideration of the life to come. Its concern was for the essence of being-the soul--whose existence transcended time. Its ministries were set by its conviction of ultimate life and ultimate death, heaven, and hell. Even more, the parameters of those ministries included the whole world and the whole man. It is no small wonder that an Army with this ultimate concern could keep in focus and indeed regard as its priority the souls of 'individual people as well as the most basic aspects of their personal lives. The Army chose to care about the world through a concern for each of its inhabitants and sought to lead all into an experience of salvation. Here is a theology of noble purpose, but very difficult to take seriously even today. Yet, this theology made believers out of thousands around the world. The Salvation Army became an Army of Salvation.
While the Army engaged in a wide variety of ministries directed at many social ills, it was a movement directed to the one primary goal of soul winning, the goal to which everything else was secondary. Bramwell Booth argued that the Church ought to work in those areas only directly to the Church's task which was explicitly:
... blessing the poor, relieving the distressed, and saving the bodies and souls of the people. Its supreme work is to save men, whether they be Socialists, Radicals, Liberals, or Conservatives, from their sins. The quality of goodness is the great determining factor in the moral advance of the people.'
Soul-winning was William Booth's call to the ministry. It remained his passion during his own formative years of turmoil and frustration. Once entering the East End of London, he would forever more pursue soul-saving results. They were the consuming passion of his Christian Mission: "To live, to move, to grow; to be a power amongst men, a light in the world, the flaming sword of God--that is our calling.''
We want the burning love to dying men which feels with a terrible heart-pang every sinner's misery, and forgets danger and difficulty and discouragement in the deathless agony to pluck brands from the burning. We want to be bigger, grander, holier, more god-like men and women, and we must be if we are to do what God expects of us."
In the very beginning of these mission days, Booth and his colleagues considered this passion for soul-winning a universal call to all Christians. In discussing the nurturing of converts in The Christian Mission Magazine the author asserted:
Make them question the ground of their religious hopes. Make them understand that true godliness is practical benevolence, and that they must at once become followers of Jesus, and go in for a life of self-sacrifice in order to do good and save souls, or else give up all hope and title to being Christians.
The mission felt the pressure of fields ready to be harvested and the need for more laborers.
We are more and more struck as time passes us with the extreme difficulty of the task we have in hand. Thousands upon thousands listen to the Mission every day in the open air. Multitudes of these are impressed even to tears, and yet it is positively terrible to reflect how few after all of those who have been accustomed to neglect the house of God are really gained to our certain knowledge for Christ every year. While in no wise disposed to discouragement, we feel very deeply the need of increased prayer, power, effort, and labourers, that larger, very much larger, results may be realised.
This urgency for soul-winning as the primary task of the Church continued to be the primary emphasis as the Mission became The Salvation Army. General Booth wrote:
"Salvationism means simply the overcoming and banishing from the earth of wickedness, inward and outward, from the heart and life of man, and the establishment of the principles of purity and goodness instead"
This Salvation War on behalf of humanity is not waged in any piecemeal fashion, Our aim is not to help poor, suffering, sinning man a little in this corner and then in another, but to lift him entirely out of the gulf in which he is plunged, and to emancipate and bless him, in every phase of his being, for time and eternity.
Everything must be brought into the service of this soul-winning. "Read, give, pray, talk, sing--do anything you can. Everything that seems likely to make people know the truth about themselves and Heaven, and Hell." The editor of The Officer, 1893, wrote:
We have no hobbies... unless it he a hobby to want to save the largest number of souls with the highest possible salvation in the quickest space of time by the best imaginable methods. That is... the sum and substance of our mission.
For the Army it was the lostness of man that prompted the divine call to the ministry. Colonel Lawley wrote:
In the face of these missions of beckoning hands, calling voices, sad souls, burdened hearts, darkened minds, rebel throngs, is not our duty clear? Cannot you and I hear the voice of the Son of God asking us to pray to the Lord of the harvest? Nay, more than that, cannot we hear Him asking us to ask others to leave all and follow Him?
As the Mission considered this call to soul-winning to be incumbent upon all Christians, so did The Salvation Army. The doctrine book of 1881 warned of the failure to win souls.
... if we do not, we shall certainly be charged with the responsibility of their destruction[.] Oh, let us pray and preach, and visit and persuade men, lest at the last great day their blood should be found in our skirts.
An ex-Salvation Army officer wrote of his first impressions of this movement: "It appeared to me that here was a people wholly and entirely devoted to the salvation of souls and the extension of the kingdom of Jesus Christ.''
The Army was aware that this sense of duty and mission was considered to be radical by many other church people and believed that it was the reason for much of their criticism.
They think that if they ATTEND a place of worship, READ their Bibles, and SAY their prayers, that this is all that is meant by FOLLOWING Him; and such people being condemned in their own hearts as they see others persecuted for doing what they neglect, often become the most vehement denouncers of all zeal and enthusiasms in the service of God. They call it fanatical and extreme to speak of sacred subjects at what they judge unsuitable times, and even go so far as to denounce as blasphemy that which is pleasing to God?
However, the Army was convinced that God wanted the world. The opening sentences of the first publication of All The World read, "Why should not Jesus Christ have 'all the world'? Has anyone got any sufficient reason? Do any of our readers know of any?" The Army answered the question with a resounding NO!
"Chimerical," "enthusiastic," "extravagant," "Utopian" do you say these calculations and exhortations are? They may he to you; no doubt they are to many, but we Salvation Soldiers believe them. They are not more so than a certain book called the Bible, or was the solemn farewell commandment given by the great Captain of our Salvation -- the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Army affirmed a worldwide, soul-saving crusade.
Our end, our aim, is to gain the world for God. Of all things, I despise a selfish religion which considers my family, my children, my circle, and doesn't lift a little finger to help stop the millions outside rushing down to Hell. Whatever religion this may be, it is not Jesus Christ's. His heart went out to every sinner?
As Army operations broadened to become a worldwide mission, the need for laborers became acutely more pressing. "Yes; men are wanted. We recognise the need within the sphere of our own influence. We feel it almost every hour of our lives; at times it overwhelms all others.'' From where were these soul winners going to come? Colonel Lucy Booth said they were to come from sinners, sinners saved by grace. "We need them beyond and above all the prayers we have each prayed with which to obtain them, but we must pray harder, call out louder, wrestle longer, for we must have them!"
Any and all seekers after souls were welcomed in the Army. Mrs. Booth gave the invitation eloquently.
If the soul is worth all the sacrifice which Jesus made of His glory, of His rule, and dominion in Heaven, the laying aside of the glorious estate in which He sat at the right hand of His Father from all eternity, surely we can sink our little dignifies and pomposities for it!
... here is a war in which you will win celestial honours -honours that will last forever. Will you enlist? We take all recruits in this Army. If you have a HEART TO LOVE, come along. We want men and women indifferent to all other aims and ends but the extension of the Kingdom of Jesus .... ~
While some churches looked for more ministers to ordain and some movements looked for sophisticated volunteers to redeem the poor from their poverty and heathenism, the Army went to the people to save them through Christ that they might become soul-winners themselves. Railton reported on this Army practice. "The humble labourer, without any great speaking ability, and often involved in a struggle to earn the barest livelihood for himself and family, was taught how to share in seeking the Salvation of men. Some outside the Army came to agree with the wisdom of such an approach.
The Salvation Army teaches the churches a lesson here. The Salvationists reach the people through the people; they make all their converts workers. Here surely is one way to win the people. Give them an interest. Make them responsible for something. A Church with working men sharing its responsibilities and taking part in its official as well as in its spiritual life would of a certainty lay hold of the people.
For the Army the day of harvest had come. Colonel Lawley asserted that given enough evangelists, every country would be invaded by Salvation Army forces. "The crowds all around us, in addition to the millions of other countries, are like the corn, ripening fat, and unless gathered quickly will rot and die on the plains.''
As the theology of the Army was able to retain both a heavenly and earthly concern, so was it able to do a similar thing with the very nature of the doctrine of salvation. The theology of the Army was able to keep together a very emotional and mystical notion of salvation with a very sober and rational notion of salvation. In more traditional terms, Army theology sought to keep together faith and works where each of these concepts was considered in somewhat radical terms.
The Army accepted a kind of direct, mystical communication from God to man in this experience of salvation. The Holy Spirit
"... does not confine Himself to sending messages to men through His people, or through books, but He, Himself, goes straight to people's hearts and so influences them as to make them feel what He wants them to do.''
For The Salvation Army, the doctrine of salvation was essentially spirit, a deep inner conviction of the heart. However, it found expression in a rational call to urgent labor. It was the change in the hearts of people that prompted plans to bring about change in more hearts.
The object of salvation was the heart, the spirit of a person, so that this heart might be fixed upon Christ. This was an emphasis carried over from the earliest of mission days as this quote from The East London Christian Mission Magazine indicates.
In this actual dosing with Christ consists the only or chief ground of hope we have for sinners; without it, all mere resolutions and head knowledge will avail but little; therefore, we attach but little importance to instructing men's minds or arousing their feelings, unless they can be led to that belief in Christ which results in the new creation.
The central place for this personal encounter with Christ was the penitent-form, often referred to as the altar, the place of prayer, the mercy seat, or the mourner's bench. Bramwell said of it:.
The penitent-form was ever the central spot in life to our beloved Founder. From the time he was sixteen years of age, everything in his affairs led up to it--every interest was made to bend to it. To bring souls to that place of decision where rebellion against God is renounced, and His will is embraced, was his supreme object.
Why the penitent-form? Railton wrote:
The General was always extremely opposed to the use of any plan other than that of the Penitent-form, lest there should be any distinction made between one class and another, or an easier path contrived for those who wished to avoid a bold avowal of Christ.
The penitent-form, where "a bold avowal of Christ" was to take place, points out the active, urgent, and instantaneous character of conversion. In order to sensitize sinners to their sin and need of salvation, "Death, judgment, hell, eternity, God's justice, the terrors of the law should steadily be kept in view." The brighter side of salvation such as mercy, pardon and peace were for a later date. At the penitent-form,
"Instant decision, salvation or sanctification on the spot, are the sum and substance of the moment's work. Immediate results must be aimed at, struggled for and claimed.''
As emotion-packed as this salvation experience was, it contained a very rational and sobering element. It required a real change of character from worldliness to godliness. Sin was real, there was no denying that. However, to the Army, salvation was also real and powerful.
... it is the "old-fashioned Gospel" that tells man he is thoroughly bad and under the power of the devil, that drags out the very hidden things of iniquity to the light of the great judgment throne; that denounces sin without mercy, and warns men of eternal wrath to come, unless they repent and believe in the only Saviour; the Gospel whose goodness does not consist in the suppression of all but sweet sounds of love, but in the plain, straightforward, ceaseless announcement of the great truth; the Gospel of a crucified Saviour, who shed real blood to save men from real guilt and a real danger of a real hell, and who lives again to give a real pardon to the really penitent, a real deliverance from the guilt and power and pollution and the fact of sin to all who really give up to Him a whole heart and trust him with a perfect trust.
The Army believed that Satan was deceiving a good part of the Church about this truth.
He has succeeded, first, in deceiving them as to the standard of their own religious life He has got the Church, nearly as a whole, to receive what I call an "Oh, wretched man that I am" religion. He has got them to lower the standard which Jesus Christ Himself established in his Book--a standard, not only to be aimed at, but to be attained unto--a standard of victory over sin, the world, the flesh, and the devil, real, living, reigning, triumphing Christianity.
Man played a most active role in the perfecting of his salvation. However, as rational and sobering as this aspect of salvation was, emphasizing human will and perseverance, salvation remained essentially a work of God. In addition to requiring a convert to exhibit a godly life, the Army required the convert to feel in his heart that his sins were forgiven and he was indeed a Christian. This was no staid salvation accomplished by a ritual of good works, nor was it an emotional leap in the dark trusting in blind faith that God would catch the convert. Conviction and repentance had to be accompanied by the assurance of salvation, and this assurance was a work of God. To the seeker, the Army implored:
Search till you find the pearl of great price, backslider. Do not give up because you fail at the first attempt. That is not how the men of the world gain their fortunes or their honours. No; they seek till they find. You have been to the penitent-form before, but you did not find what you sought. Search till you find. That sort of spirit cannot be denied. Sometimes God delays our blessings, so that when received we may value them the more.
The Army warned the Christian worker.
Never tell them they are saved, if they don't think so. When a man gets saved, God will tell him about it; and then he will not need you to tell him so. But encourage him to go on seeking; urge him to go and deal with God alone, and come again. Get his address; have him visited. Go after him yourself.
To discuss salvation as a personal and individual experience which goes beyond rational assent to a mystical kind of certainty conveyed by God to man, and to regard this as absolutely indispensable for a valid spiritual experience, is to argue that "Being" is foundational to "Doing." K. S. Inglis, discussing the Army and its doctrines has observed that "For an officer ..... it was not enough merely to assent to these doctrines. They must possess him.'' In the materialistic age of Victorian England, where reality seemed to be quantifiable and all mysteries within the reach of human reason, where the value of things was assessed by a utilitarian standard (i.e., their usefulness), the Army argued the supernatural back into the natural without deprecating either. Very much a child of its day, it preached a red assurance of salvation. This assurance was subjective in its certainty but it was objective in the command that the life of salvation be lived for all to see. If you are, you will do. Colonel Lucy Booth put it this way:
What "more of God" can enable us to be! We are something, all praise to Him!-we are cleansed through the precious Blood of the Lamb--we have been chosen to be His disciples--we are already called by His name! We are so much we used not to be--ever so much we never thought we ever could be.
Then, with more of God, what we can then DO! "This sense of Being, being God's person individually and being God's people as his Army, sustained the Army even when the results of its doing were minimal. Inglis picked this up in his study, which includes a section on The Salvation Army.
Good Salvationists never forgot that their task was to win souls for Christ; and even if they won few, the sense of being a community set apart for this purpose contributed to the fellowship of an Army Corps.
Above all, love was to characterize this being. The love of God was preached as the very essence of the Being of a Salvationist as it should be for every Christian. The spirit of love was to inspire and clothe all of the efforts of the Army. In the General's words: "Fight with the spirit of love. Not of anger, of hatred, of condemnation; but of LOVE. Pure, beautiful, patient, enduring, happy love.'' Because salvation was presented as a real experience, carrying with it the assurance of a divine work done in the heart of a believer, the love sought after was a knowledgeable love rather than a sentimental concern. It was a love with substance and direction, a special, peculiar love which also could only be given by God.
... this bringing of love, such as I am speaking of, into our Eves, we cannot make it, we cannot manufacture it ourselves, and cannot manifest it till we have received it. It is something that comes from God.
While being was foundational to doing, the doing of the Army was not depreciated in any sense. The work of the Army played a paramount role in the way the Army lived out its understanding of salvation, even as the call to a real character-changing experience had a practical effect upon the emotion packed concept of a spiritual conversion accomplished by God and testified to by his Spirit.
The doing of the Army was Intensely practical. Booth's great social scheme, published in 1890, was titled In Darkest England and the Way Out. For a short time, it caught the fancy and finandal support of many English people. Its scheme was to establish city, farm, and overseas colonies. City colonies would provide shelter and labor for the masses of unemployed in the dries, and goods would be predduced for sale to the city's poor at more affordable prices. The overpopulation of the cities would find an answer in the farm and overseas colonies where people, forced off the land by the economy, could return to the land and produce goods and raw material for use throughout England. It has been suggested by some that at this time Booth came as close as he ever would to viewing economic and environmental factors as the causes of England's misery, rather than universal moral depravity.
Booth's social scheme never fully developed, though much of the Army's Harbor Light mission work and its Adult Rehabilitation Centers working with the homeless, the alcoholic, and drug addict are direct results of the city-colony concept. It seems that this was a grandiose idea, and yet the spirit of practicality and common sense that undergirded it spawned hundreds of successful social programs and causes. It was this intensely practical character that kept the feet of the Army's concept of salvation firmly planted upon the ground of reality. This combination of an emotionally mystical spiritual experience with an intensely practical program of sodal assistance and caring made the Army's concept of salvation a powerful idea.
This social scheme and the establishment of the Social Wing of The Salvation Army as a distinct emphasis in the panorama of Army ministries illustrate the Army's appreciation for the effects of environment upon the individual. The Army was ever willing to reach out to the masses with a helping hand, whether or not they subscribed to its theology. However, the hope was always that this help might encourage the recipients to give the Army's message a listening ear. There is little doubt that the Army believed that its colonies would assist England, even if the people did not all accept the gospel of salvation. Yet, there is no evidence that this awareness ever dulled the Army's conviction that salvation through Christ was the only lasting answer to the miseries of a people, and anything short of salvation would only lead to eventual rain.
For The Salvation Army, the sin of the world was considered to he a personal problem. Even when the Army's social scheme reached its greatest popularity, and when the Army branched out into more and more programs of social involvement and assistance, there was never any concept of social sin. At the turn of the century Sir Robert Stout, an eminent Englishman, said of the work of The Salvation Army:
It seems to me, leaving out for the present any reference to its theology, that The Salvation Army has been based on this fact, that, if you are to accomplish any great work in dealing with humanity, you must make that work individual. Mankind cannot be saved in a mass; you must go to each individual man and to each woman; and if you wish to reform them, or to redeem them, you must deal with them individually; and I believe that that individual dealing has in a great measure made The Salvation Army successful.
The Army was in full agreement with this observation. Its emphasis upon the individual went back to its earliest mission days. In its magazine, The East London Evangelist, it was written:
The visitor who desires to take the "light of the world" to the dark homes of the poor, should remember that it is absolutely necessary that every unregenerate sinner should feel his condition before God to be a state of sin; otherwise it is impossible to believe in the necessity of a Saviour.
Booth attributed his success to this preaching of a real, personal, and individual salvation. In an interview he responded to a question about his success.
. . . If I were compelled to condense the answer to your question into a solitary sentence, I should say; In the insistence upon an actual experience of salvation, including a heart realisation and development of love to God and love to man-so
He went on to say,
"... I have always regarded all theoretical opinions, and church ceremonials, and passing feelings as being subordinate, nay, as being nowhere, in comparison with a personal realisation of Divine things.''
This idea of salvation requiring divine assurance and practical life-expression permeated with love and centered within the life of the individual: became a very compelling force. Here was a spirit which sought to compel people to consider the sin of the world as well as the sin of their own lives. This was one of the lessons Booth believed the Army had given to the world. It asserted that God's people
... whatever they are called, must be the Rebukers of the world--the Intruders upon its selfishness and pleasure life-the Demanders from it of its dues and duty to God, its Maker and Judge. No greater mistake could be made than to suppose that our sole business with the world is to serve it or reveal to it the sympathies and benevolences of God. We are to condemn its sin and command its repentance and foretell its doom.
A noted churchman of England quotes another respected colleague with reference to the Army and the work of the
"'The Salvation Army,' said Bishop Lightfoot, the wisest and most learned of our Prelates, 'has at least recalled us to the lost ideal of the work of the Church, the universal compulsion of the souls of men.'"
It is not clear here whether Lightfoot means that the Church is compelled to seek to save the lost or that the Church is to compel the lost to at least listen to the gospel. However, both aspects were consciously pursued in the warfare of the Army. The Army's warfare was compulsory.
"Wherever a true faith in the Gospel exists, The General's organisation of compulsory plans for the Salvation of souls will not only be approved, but regarded as one of the great glories of this life."
The Army's program was to "compel" the attention of the lost.
... all who really hear God's voice cannot but become alarmed as to the manifest danger that His warnings may remain entirely unheeded. When once any soul is truly enlightened, it cannot but put forth every devisable effort to compel the attention of others.
The reader will understand better why this love is referred to as a love with substance. It was sober, serious, challenging, inspiring, and visionary. The Army was to "... overcome, conquer, subdue, not merely teach, but persuade, compel all nations, that is, all men to become the disciples of the Son of God.''
It was this spirit of compulsion that drove the Army into the streets to personally contact the lost and suffering.
The Salvation Army is not content to stand upon the pedestals of dignity and far-off compassion, describing and commiserating the sins and misfortunes of the people, in the hope that they may in some undefined way come to a better state of things. It descends to them, goes down into the street where they are, and on to the level of actual human touch with them, and, appealing to them by means which they can appreciate, calls to the careless, startles the vicious and degraded, and lays hands on those who are spiritually sick and dying, and brings them to the Healer of Men.
The Army did compel people to consider the gospel and to become soldiers whose lives were completely engaged in this salvation warfare. Not all were the dregs of society. There were those from the upper classes who joined the Army, often to the sorrow and despair of loved ones. This is illustrated in the words of a father who mourned the loss of his young daughter to The Salvation Army.
... with respect to my child and to other young persons of whom I have heard, I fear the Army influence has a direct tendency to wean the converts from home associations and interests, under the idea that its work is paramount in importance to all other pursuits and obligations, and even to the known wishes of parents.
Mr. Charlesworth went on to refer to a letter received from his daughter.
... through it all there was the mournful evidence that she was the captive of the Salvation Army; that a father's love, a daughter's duty, a sweet home in which there was every indulgence and comfort, were not to he set in the scale against work in the Salvation Army.
This call to global soul-winning was so explicit as to separate those with a genuine burden for this work from those inclined to a more traditional expression of religion. The Army was openly critical of the established Church and ever sought to maintain its distance from it.
We refuse to settle down into places of worship such as might be agreeable to our people and their families, but insist upon the open-air stand and the place of amusement, where there may he little comfort, but where the most good may he done. We refuse to allow our officers to stay very long in any one place, lest they or the people should sink into the relationship of pastor and flock, and look to their mutual enjoyment and advantage rather than to the salvation of others.
We are not and will not he made a sect We are an army of soldiers of Christ, organized as perfectly as we have been able to accomplish, seeking no church status, avoiding as we would the plague every denominational rut, in order perpetually to reach more and more of those who lie outside every church boundary.
In this salvation war, God and man had come together dynamically and taken the offensive against the powers and principalities of spiritual darkness. A newspaper writer reported:
The Salvationists act as though they believe that the never-dying souls of men and women will be lost unless they are persuaded to accept Salvation through Christ, and they 'go out into the highways' to bring them into the Ark of safety.
Bold and daring methods are required in any offensive campaign. The open-air street-meetings with instrumental bands and personal testimonies and the drum were among the most effective weapons in the Army's arsenal. While the drum offended many, it pushed forth the claims of this warfare in a most powerful way. Asked why the Army must use this terrible sounding instrument, the response was:
Oh! the drum! We could not give that up. It is the drum that empties the Public Houses. The people at the bar are attracted by the noise, and come out to see what is the matter. Then some of them follow the march, and are taken hold of. The drum brings a good many to the Penitent Form?
In this salvation war, offensive in character and global in dimension, there was a real cost of discipleship. A Major Wells from California reported:
My heart is cheered. We are making the devil mad. Victory will come! Look out for some martyrdom here in the near future--it is to come, sure. Well, we are saved to die, and don't care much where our bones are buried.
From India this report was given of the war.
Sleeping on the ground under trees I don't mind, and you are so hungry by the time you get your food, that your hands go into the rice and curry of sticky dough without being asked twice. Thank God it isn't a sin to eat with unwashed hands.
You can't take changes of clothing with you, as you sometimes have to swim across stretches of water, and are constantly wading. The filthy, stinky water you have to go through is the great danger, excepting the water you drink.
For some, the cost of discipleship was too much.
Owing to our adherence to this rigid military system, we are losing almost every year officers, as well as people, who, having lost their first love, begin to hanker after the "rights," "privileges," "comforts," "teaching," or "respectability of the churches." No one remains with us, or is likely to remain, whose sole object in life is not the attainment of the one purpose ever kept before the Army--the rescue from sin and hell of those who are farthest from God and righteousness.
In this salvation war the primary word was always "attack." Booth, answering criticism of the Army's work in Switzerland said:
It is the same story everywhere; we are in the front of a life and death struggle against unbelief, drunkenness, and other vices which National Assemblies fear to grapple with, but which must be overcome if the nations are not to be handed over to ruinous debauchery and ruffianism.
Christians must be doing something. Railton, writing Booth's biography, asserted: "The inexorable law to which he insisted that everything should bend was that nothing can excuse inactivity and want of enterprise where souls are perishing.''
He proved that it was possible to raise up "Christian Soldiers," who would not only sing, or hear singing, in beautiful melody about "marching, onward to War"; but who would really do it, even when it led to real battle.
Offensive warfare is warfare that presses the issue. It is a first-strike effort. Commenting on Acts 26:16 and God's command to his disciples to go into all the world, Mrs. Booth said:
Not build temples or churches, and wait for the people to come to you, but "go ye"--run after them, seek them out-and "preach My gospel to every creature." Thrust yourselves and your message on the attention of men.
"I sent thee as my herald, to shake them, arouse them, open their eyes, make them think, and realise the verities of eternal things." "We are not to shrink from pressing the truth on men's attention for fear of giving offence." The Officer records as one of the General's first principles this:
"... while others were considering the best methods to be employed in order to reach the masses, we have been to the fore with the living hflfillrnent of the only practical answer to the question, viz., 'GO TO THEM"
In the words of Mrs. Booth:
We must fight with ignorance by enlightening it. We must come down to that measure of humiliation and sacrifice which is necessary to this. We must adapt ourselves. We must grapple with the condition of the people, where they are, put the arms of a loving sympathy around them, and weep tears of Christ-like compassion over them, pray for and reason with them, man to man, woman to woman, in hand-to-hand, face-to-face conflict.
The unsaved masses needed to be shown Christ, alive and concerned. Without any smattering of blasphemy, these warriors intended, as far as possible, to be Christ to the suffering lost.
We must contend with hatred and opposition BY LOVE, show sinners how God loves by our love, by our willingness to sacrifice and suffer for them; make them see it in our tears, in our prayers, in our trudging about after them ...
The biblical revelation that God loved the world of sinners enough to give his son for its salvation has been a source of hope and inspiration since the days of Jesus. However, the idea of God calling into being an Army of all kinds of people, most of low estate, even the lowest, to reach out to a whole world of sinners with the hope of salvation is more something about which fiction writers might write stories. When this happens in human history and is recorded as actual event we have a theology grand in concept and practice.
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon