This is a open-air preaching story of young William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army.
Trevor Yaxley tells us the story: One early success came with a preaching venture that found him in Kid Street with Will Samson. Expectantly, they had positioned themselves on the street edge, outside the home of a notorious drunk, Besom Jack. Their open-air meeting commenced with a hymn that seemed to be appropriate for the occasion. It was from the Methodist songbook:
Outcasts of men, to you I call,
Harlots and publicans and thieves!
He spreads His arms to embrace you all;
Sinners alone, His grace receives:
No need of Him the righteous have,
He came the lost to seek and save.
They had no sooner raised their voices than a large, boisterous crowd encircled them. Young William was on his chair in an instant. friends, he cried as he dodged a well-aimed, overripe missile, his large hooknose having a somewhat magnetic appeal to the tomato-launching public. I want to put a few straight questions to your soul, he declared passionately. Have any of you got a child at home without shoes to its feet? Are your wives sitting now in dark houses waiting for you to return without money? Are you going away from here
to spend on drink, money that your wives need for food?
At that moment the front door behind him flung open and out stumbled Besom Jack, eyes aflame and heading straight for the preaching duo, shouting abuse and lunging at them while still six feet away.
Jack, God loves your wife, and so did you once, said William steadily, looking the broom-seller in the eye. Jack stopped in his tracts and immediately became quite. Can you remember how much you loved her and cherished her when you first met? the teenager asked tenderly. Jack nodded; his eyes fixed on the ground. Well, Jack, God loves you with a love like that, with a love far deeper and greater than that. The hushed crowed strained to catch what the boy-preacher was saying, amazed at the change that had overcome the drunkard.
Jack lifted his eyes and blinked sheepishly. Me? he asked in wonderment. Yes, Jack, you, said William as he stood down from the chair and took hold of Jacks arm.
Jacks wife recounted the end of this meeting
the following week, saying,
And e said to im, Come Jack, just kneel down ere and tell the Lord you love im too. And ask im to forgive yer. And e did! My jack knelt ther in the gutter and es bin a different man ever since; e says es a Christian now!
Young Williams heart beat for souls! His desire to help the poor had grown into a desire to see them saved. Gone were his notions of joining the Chartists, whose policies could only address the outward, political symptoms of poverty but never affect the heart of a person caught in alcoholism or despair. He had found his calling as a preacher of the gospel, the only true agent of inward change.
Trevor Yaxley quote can be found in William and Catherine: The Life and Legacy of the Booths by Trevor Yaxley with Carolyn Vanderwal, pages 57-58