The rise of the Salvation Army
This should be read in conjunction with the biographies of William and Catherine Booth which can be found on this site.
William and Catherine were both born in 1829. William, initially to a well-off father, but his dad went on to lose it all and after his death, William’s mother had to move to very lowly accommodations and William grew up observing great poverty and misery around him; something he never forgot and which was the foundation for the important ministry that was ahead of him. His salvation experience, together with possibly receiving the Baptism of Fire in a James Caughey meeting when he was seventeen, set a fire in him to see souls saved. The passion for reformation and for seeing people come to Jesus combined in William to make him the extraordinary man he was to become.
Some years later another major influence was to come into his life – Catherine Mumford, as she was then. Catherine’s mother was a strong Christian and was a huge influence, both with regard to her daughter’s spirituality and the sharpness of her mind. Catherine wrote, “I cannot remember the time when I had not intense yearnings after God.” Also, she loved to read and read the Bible cover to cover eight times by the time she was twelve. Her health was fragile all her life and in her childhood, she spent a lot of time resting, which gave her the opportunity to read extensively. At twelve she got involved in the Temperance movement and her compassion for the marginalised became obvious. Catherine loved going to church and hearing sermons and she read a great deal about Church history and theology – great preparation for what lay ahead.
On William’s 23rd birthday they met, for the first time properly at a meeting and he took Catherine home. During the journey they fell in love and after a lot of discussion and prayer, they got engaged about a month later. What a wonderful combination they were – the passionate, gifted, organiser William who was a great leader and the passionate, clever, knowledgeable, organiser Catherine. The characteristic that set William apart was that he was a force of nature; he had an amazing presence about him. Particularly in the early years Catherine was more the decision-maker. William was usually unsure of what his next step should be – Catherine was always sure. They were in love until the day Catherine died.
Catherine helped William in his decision to accept a position from the Methodist Reform Church to be head of their Spalding, Lincolnshire circuit, where he saw a number of salvations. He then moved to the New Connexion Methodists in 1854, where he quickly gained a reputation as an evangelist.
William and Catherine were married in June 1855. William’s evangelistic activities were very successful, but this created jealousy amongst the ministers of the New Connexion, to such an extent that at the 1857 Conference a majority banned him from further revivalist activity and he was appointed to the Brighouse Circuit. This was upsetting to them both and they discussed his leaving the New Connexion, but William believed in obeying leadership. He hoped to be released to evangelise at the next conference, but again he was denied and was appointed to Gateshead, with the verbal understanding that he would be released at the next Conference.
They were at Gateshead for three years. William was very successful there, growing the church hugely. The tragedy here was that this period was in the middle of the greatest revival we have ever had and our greatest revivalist was pastoring. This was also a time when Catherine stepped into her destiny. On the prompting of the Holy Spirit, she spent two evenings a week visiting the poor in their homes; getting some to give up drink and others to give their lives to Jesus. She soon realised that she was gifted in this area. Soon afterwards she felt the strong nudging of the Holy Spirit again, so she got up in church and said a few words. William had been saying for some time that she should preach, so he told her that she would be preaching in the church that evening. Catherine’s talk was a great success and from then on invitations flooded in and her life was changed forever.
At the 1861 Conference the question was raised again about William becoming a full-time revivalist. There were a lot of discussions and it looked as if he was going to be released when at the last moment someone suggested a compromise, with William being appointed to a circuit but being released for evangelistic work on occasions. William knew this would not work because he knew that the circuit he was being appointed to would require all his efforts but before his supporters could mobilise, the compromise was voted on and passed. On hearing the result of the vote, Catherine, who was in the gallery, shouted ‘Never!’ and they left the Conference and shortly afterwards, the New Connexion Church.
Meanwhile, in January 1861 William came to London to attend a meeting set up by Reginald Radcliffe for “representatives and friends of all the agencies carrying on the Lord’s work in the East End.,” out of which came the East London Special Services Committee. William was interested in what was discussed regarding reaching the masses, but wrote to Catherine that he could not think of doing anything like that for the moment.
In the summer he came to London again to see if he should be involved in Home Mission work. He visited several well-known evangelists, but went away undecided; determining to watch and pray and wait for the Lord to make things clear.
After leaving the New Connexion Methodists, William and Catherine were asked to do some revival meetings in Cornwall. These resulted in a big revival and the campaign lasted 18 months. The amazing thing here was that whilst in Cornwall all the Methodist denominations banned revivalist meetings in their churches. This largely came out of jealousy and the fear that the ministers might lose some of their congregations to the Booths. The crazy thing about this was that they were banning the very thing that each of the Methodist denominations were founded on – revivalism. Also, as already stated, this was in the middle of the largest revival the UK has known and these major denominations, in effect, put handcuffs on it. The Methodist churches were the largest churches around, so William had to start thinking about alternative venues. The ironic thing is, had the Methodists not forced William out and had not several denominations banned revivalism, perhaps the Salvation Army would never have been born.
During this time Catherine took many meetings herself. After Cornwall were other missions around the country, all of which were successful, although large churches were closed to them, so they were forced to hire secular buildings, such as a Circus in Cardiff and have open-air meetings. This was a very depressing time for William who could not work to the fullness of his capabilities. In 1864 they agreed to do separate missions, thereby spreading their influence.
Catherine had extensive meetings in Rotherhithe, London, which opened up the possibilities of other opportunities for her in the area. They had been thinking about missioning London, so they made the decision in 1865 to move from Leeds to London, hoping that the Metropolis would open up to William, the way it looked like it was going to for Catherine.
It is probably difficult today to understand the condition of those living in the slums of the East End of London in the 1860’s. Most of the people lived in total squalor with little food – some died of starvation. Sanitation was terrible, as was the sickness, over-crowding and destitution. Their situation was particularly bad in the mid-1860s because the American Civil War had disrupted trade. The extreme poverty that most of the inhabitants were living in got even worse for many.
Another major ingredient to the condition of people living here was drink. In 1830 Parliament was so concerned about the amount of spirits that were being consumed that they passed a bill that allowed cheap licences for the selling of beer and cider. As a result, by 1869 there were over 49,000 licensed beer shops. Someone wrote that in Whitechapel Road one could see nearly 19,000 people go into public houses on a Sunday. Small wonder that the Temperance Movement was very active at this time. Of course, the spending of wages on drink exacerbated the financial stress on most families.
Many people had been trying to reach Londoners ever since the 1859-64 revival began. This revival was the first time non-denominational evangelists were used to reach the lost. Dozens of them tried hard to evangelise the poorer areas of London, but with only marginal success. It was also the time when new Agencies were started to reach the lost, home and abroad.
The idea was coming to the Booths that the best way of reaching the masses was by an outside agency, independent of the Church. They were also drawn towards London as it was a big enough mission field for them both and so would not require much separation. William however hesitated as he thought that he was not up to the enormous task. He decided to try it, recognising that if he failed he could still minister in the provinces. It was agreed that he would join Catherine after she had completed a series of meetings in Rotherhithe and they would decide where to go from there. The meetings were successful and the Booths took a house in Shaftesbury Road, Hammersmith, from where they could start their London mission.
In June 1865 William was walking down Whitechapel Road when he came across a group of Gospel missioners, who were standing in the Mile End Waste (a space between the road and the pavement) opposite the ‘Blind Beggar Pub’, and were just finishing up a meeting. Some of the people were from The Christian Community (originally formed by the Huguenots in the seventeenth century) and others connected to the East London Special Services Commission, whose meeting William attended four years earlier.
Their leader asked if any converted bystander would like to say something and William did not need to be asked twice. His forceful words soon brought a crowd and the missioners realised this was someone special, and they thought William would be great to lead them in holding a series of meetings in a tent on an old Quaker burial ground (Vallance Road, around the corner from the ‘Blind Beggar’). A few days later a deputation came to ask him if he would temporarily lead the Tent Mission as the proposed evangelist was sick. William decided to accept. This was the beginning!
Intending to do a week only, the meetings were so successful (up to 14 people were saved each night) William continued there. He led two meetings each night, one in the Mile End Road and one in the Tent. A report in the Wesleyan Times on the 20th August said that the people who came never usually went to church – these were the type of people that the Salvation Army were to target all over the world. The report also said that they were looking for a hall to carry on the meetings in the winter.
William wrote in ‘The Christian’ six weeks after the start of the Tent Meetings, showing why he wanted to minister in the East End. ‘The moral degradation and spiritual destitution of the teeming population of the East of London are subjects which the Christians of the metropolis are perfectly conversant. More than two-thirds of the working classes never cross the threshold of church or chapel, but loiter away the Sabbath in idleness, spending it in pleasure-seeking or some kind of money-making traffic. Consequently, tens of thousands are totally ignorant of the Gospel and, as they will not attend the means ordinarily used for making known the love of God towards them, it is evident that if they are to be reached extraordinary methods must be employed.’
Interestingly, he mentions ‘moral degradation and spiritual destitution,’ but does not mention economic degradation or economic destitution. Up to this point, William’s only concern seems to be the spiritual well-being of the poor, he did not consider that their poverty could influence love, worship and aspiration. His one answer was the Gospel and he was extraordinarily successful in this due to the passion, sympathy and love he had for the people and the simple and powerful way he delivered the message to sinners.
On July 26th William met an Irish prizefighter, Peter Monk, walking down the street opposite the ‘Blind Beggar’. He stopped to speak with him and asked him to come and hear him speak at Mile End. Monk thought William to be the finest looking gentleman he had ever seen, he said there was something about him that laid hold of a man. The next day he was to fight one of the best fighters behind the Blind Beggar pub, but on leaving William he believed it would be his last fight. The man he was fighting had a huge reputation and he was much bigger and stronger, but the Irishman won easily after an hour and three-quarters! After winning he went to the Mile End Waste to hear William and a short time later he gave his life to the Lord. The Irishman became the head of food distribution and he took meetings in the slums of Shoreditch. He said that it seemed that William would tear the soul out of your body! The Irishman is just one example of thousands.
In another letter to ‘The Christian’, published on the 17th August William lays out his plans. ‘We have no very definite plans. We shall be guided by the Holy Spirit. At present, we desire to hold consecutive services for the purpose of bringing souls to Christ in different localities of the East of London every night all year-round. We propose holding these meetings in halls, theatres, chapels, tents, the open-air and elsewhere…We purpose to watch over and visit personally those brought to Christ, either guiding them to communion with adjacent or sympathetic churches or ourselves nursing them and training them to active labour.
In order to carry on this work, we propose to establish a Christian Revival Association in which we think a hundred persons will enrol themselves at once. We shall also require some central building in which to hold our more private meetings and in which to preach the Gospel when not engaged in special work elsewhere.’
Those seem pretty definite plans to me! They seem very well thought out and this is confirmed by a comment William made to Catherine on coming home after one of the Tent Meetings, ‘Darling, I have found my destiny’. The Lord had given him the vision, and as the days went by William saw more and more of the plan until he realised that this was his destiny. At first, Catherine was not supportive, because this plan was different to the one their supporters were expecting and the worry about finance; but she prayed and came into agreement.
The Lord very quickly gave Catherine peace as to depending on Him for the finances. Samuel Morley, a philanthropist, had heard of the goings-on in the Tent and a month later he invited William to come and tell him all about his plans. Morley gave him a cheque for £100 which was to be his annual contribution.
William was drawn to the East End by the poverty, drunkenness, immorality and blasphemy of the people living there. He had no rest until he helped them. His focusing on this form of Mission lost him a lot of friends. ‘Some of them objected to his holiness teaching. Others considered that he laid too much stress upon repentance and works and too little on bare faith. Not a few grew weary of the ceaseless open-air meetings and processions with the mobbing and mockery of the crowd.’
In September his tent was destroyed by wind and with winter coming they moved into a Dancing Studio at 23 New Road, Whitechapel. Open-air meetings were held in the morning at one end of New Road; in the afternoon at the other end and in the evening on Mile End Road. Hundreds would come to hear the Gospel message in the evenings and then they would procession to the Dancing Academy, singing all the way. The hall was filled and people were saved. Money was a worry because the people were all so poor, but evidently, nearly every Sunday they found a golden sovereign in the box!
William wrote about this time, explaining his methods. ‘We found that though the aversion of the working class to churches and chapels was as strong as could readily be conceived, yet they eagerly listened to speakers who, with ordinary ability, in an earnest and loving manner, could set before them the truths of the Bible in the open-air. At any season of the year, in nearly all kinds of weather, at any hour of the day and almost any hour of the night, we could obtain a congregation.
…every outdoor service should, if possible, be connected with an indoor meeting, where, free from those dissipating influences which more or less always accompany outdoor preaching, especially in the streets of London, the Gospel could with greater clearness be set forth, further appeals could be made in favour of an immediate closing with Christ, prayer could be offered and an opportunity secured for a personal conversation with the people… In this actual closing 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.’
They met on Sundays at the Dancing Academy until February 1867 when they moved to the Effingham Theatre on Whitechapel Road. For week-day nights they had to use many different venues until June 1866 when they found an old wool store in Three Colts Lane that seated 120 people. The problem here was there were only low windows ventilating it and if open men would throw mud, stones and even fireworks inside. The open-air meetings were often harassed by the police, publicans and the frequenters of pubs. This was the same for many years to come, however, a number of the persecutors ended up being saved.
Money was always going to be a worry for the Booths. As William’s vision grew, so did the cost, so finding people to support the Mission was always an aspect of the work. Catherine became dangerously ill at this time and went to Tonbridge Wells to recuperate. On recovering they visited the home of philanthropist Henry Reed where William Haslam was speaking. That Sunday Catherine preached for him in his Mission Hall. The glory of God came down and Reed was very touched and they became firm friends and Reed became an important supporter of the Mission.
Another building taken was Holywell Mount Chapel in Scrutton Street, Shoreditch. The Trustees were just leaving the building having just decided to close it as they had so few members when one of them spotted William on the other side of the street. The Chairman exclaimed that William could fill the chapel, so they approached him and arranged a rent and shortly afterwards the chapel was full.
At the end of 1866, with their three venues, people could hear the Gospel all year round and William reported that they were having 17 open-air meetings a week and 20 indoor meetings, a number were being saved and some good people were being raised up to do evangelistic work.
William had been very downcast by what he saw in the lives of people after they were converted. They did not become missionaries, they did not make great sacrifices and they did not touch the lives of other people. He then realised that the one way he could lastingly change men and women was to make them, at the moment of conversion, seekers and savers of the lost.
William had no intention of forming an organisation to look after the people once they were saved; he wanted them to join churches, but most wouldn’t go and most churches wouldn’t have them as their respectable members felt uncomfortable having these ‘roughs’ amongst them. This meant he was forced to look after them himself, so the new Christians were set to work immediately. They were meant to evangelise their friends and neighbours, visit the sick, hand out tracts etc.
Other Mission Movements had found it very difficult to keep their new converts, many fell away. They concluded that the only way was to put them in churches. However, the rough people of London did not like churches. William had developed a structure to solve the problem. He insisted on a definite confession of Christ by getting people to come out to the penitent form. In the past ministers used an enquiry room where people who were convicted of sin could be more private and where helpers would read Bible verses to the penitent to point them to Jesus as their Saviour. William believed that a person coming to Jesus at the penitent form resulted in a much stronger Christian than one who believed that all would be well if they believed a text in the Bible. (I assume that most had an encounter with God at the penitent form) The new converts would then be watched over and instructed, then trained and sent out to evangelise. This method produced long-lasting fruit.
William therefore created the East London Christian Revival Union, which in September 1867 became The East London Christian Mission. Two more venues were soon added which added to costs, but the Evangelisation Society heard about the work and became a generous supporter.
A newspaper report shows something of the way William reached the masses. ‘Mr Booth employed very simple language in his comments… frequently repeated the same sentence several times as if he was afraid his hearers would forget. It was curious to note the intense, almost painful degree of eagerness with which every sentence of the speaker was listened to. The crowd seemed fearful of even losing a word.
It was a powerful influence that the preacher possessed over his hearers. Very unconventional in style, no doubt… but it did enable him to reach the hearts of hundreds of those for whom prison and the convicts’ settlement have no terrors, of whom even the police stand in fear… He implored them, first, to leave their sins, second, to leave them at once, that night, and third, to come to Christ. Not a word was uttered by him that could be misconstrued; not a doctrine was propounded that was beyond the comprehension of those to whom it was addressed.
There was no sign of impatience during the sermon. There was too much dramatic action, too much anecdotal matter to admit of its being considered dull and when it terminated scarcely a person left his seat, indeed, some appeared to consider it too short, although the discourse had occupied fully an hour in its delivery.’
1867 was a year of substantial growth. Around nine more buildings (some were in terrible condition) were added to the Mission in nearby areas of London, including a Head Quarters for the Mission at the Eastern Star shop, 220 Whitechapel Road. This could not have been achieved without considerable support from the Evangelisation Society, whose minutes record all the money given to the various ventures of the Mission. A report during the year said that 1,000 had been converted and William now had a band of 300 helpers in his Mission. A further report in September said that there was seating for 8,000 at a time in the various buildings and ten people working full time. Volunteers were active in house to house visits, where they went out in pairs, delivering tracts, speaking and praying with people and inviting them to meetings. These visitors met together weekly to support one another and to report cases of great need that they had come across. There were also four Sunday and two-day schools and a Bible carriage in which two people went around selling Bibles and other religious literature, advertising meetings and preaching.
The Mission also provided reading rooms where men could get away from their rather horrid homes, into a peaceful environment where they could read and fellowship with others who encouraged them to persevere in reforming their lives. The Mission also gave away food to those particularly in need, they had a soup kitchen and several mothering societies.
William was meticulous in organising the expenditure and recording of transactions. He never took any money himself, instead relying on generous people to give him enough to support his large family.
In 1868 it was reported that 120 services were being held every week. Many were coming to the Lord and they needed to be looked after. ‘The name and address of every seeker was recorded and a ticket given to admit them to a private meeting at the Mission Hall on the following night, when they were met by experienced and sympathetic Christians who personally examined them as to the depth of their convictions and the ground for their hope, giving suitable counsel and placing them in touch with some duly qualified brother or sister whose work it was to watch over and counsel them.’
Tea meetings began to be held which became a regular activity over many years. Hundreds would come for tea and there would be a service afterwards.
William’s vision was now costing £50 a week, which was a lot of money and the Evangelisation Society had to substantially reduce their giving. They stopped completely at the end of 1868 because William had created an organised Institution that put them beyond the constitution of the Society. However, the Lord knew and donations increased so that income just exceeded costs by the end of the year.
In October 1868, the first issue of the Mission magazine was published with William as editor. It was called the East London Evangelist, which later changed its name to the Christian Mission Magazine in 1870, to the Salvationist in 1879 and finally the War Cry at the end of 1879. To begin with, it was a 16 page monthly, with about 50% articles and the rest reports from the different Mission Stations. It grew in size to 28 pages and in the late 1870s, it was almost only reports from the stations. By 1880 there were about 120 stations, so it had to go weekly in order to give enough space to report what was going on all over the country.
The condition of people in the East End was as bad as ever. Near starvation, disease, lack of work – lack of hope! The poverty and despair really tugged on William’s heart and he was desperate to help the people. He did what he could, but he knew that his primary goal was souls.
Persecution was great at all stations for many years. Being sworn at and mocked were the least of their problems – they had stones, eggs and mud thrown at them; tea or other things might be thrown on them from a window above where they were or they might be hit with sticks etc. At other times the roughs might play musical instruments or shout to drown out the preacher’s voice. Policemen sometimes caused them trouble, as did publicans and magistrates. However, a surprising number of the worse offenders gave their lives to Jesus. The missioners, many of them young women, were very brave. There are no reports of them running away or anything; they just stood their posts, and in the end, the Holy Spirit was always the victor. It was the Mission’s policy not to react to persecution and to obey the police even if their demands were unreasonable. Several times it was reported that missioners knelt down in the street in response to abuse from people in the street.
An example of the salvation of someone who became a major force in the Mission. John Allen was a navvy and his foreman got converted and started to work on John, but progress was slow. At length, he went to a meeting at one of the theatres because of a dare. Twelve days later he turned up to a weeknight meeting and at the end of the meeting he was convicted of sin, but would not come out to the penitent form. Knowing his situation, twenty or thirty people knelt all around him and pleaded with God for his salvation. After a long time in prayer, John began to groan and bellow like a bullock for mercy and this went on for about twenty minutes. He then jumped to his feet and shouted, ‘I do believe! I do believe!’ The tears streaming down his face. Then he jumped up and shouted repeatedly, ‘The Blood of Jesus cleanses me from all sin!’
In 1869 Catherine did a mission for several weeks in Croydon which was very successful and as a result, they were asked to form a station there. This they did and it was the first time they had planted outside of London, so William thought it best to change the name of the Magazine to Christian Mission Magazine to reflect this expansion. Stations were often started after Catherine had a series of successful meetings.
William believed that there would be further expansion, ‘as rapidly as we have the right kind of worker to fill them.’ He recognised that such expansion would be expensive and could only be financed by people around the country with a heart to see the nation saved. Indeed, before the end of the year, new stations were opened in Bow Common, Old Ford and Canning Town.
Despite having all these buildings for meetings, none of them was big enough for the crowds wanting to come and there were no rooms available for Bible classes, believers’ meetings, evening educational classes, mothers' meetings etc. Two years earlier a building was erected on Whitechapel Road for a new venture called the People’s Market, but it was a failure and in less than a year, closed. The owner wanted a lot of money for it (£3,000) and negotiations broke down, but eight months later the owner got into financial difficulties and William eventually bought it for £1,750. It was thought to be the perfect building for evangelistic work, with several side rooms. Unfortunately, the refitting costs got out of control and an appeal had to be made to the public. Mr Morley gave £500 and someone, probably Mr Reed gave another £500. The People’s Mission Hall opened in April 1870.
In 1872 William became ill and had to rest for over six months. There was some concern that there was nobody who could look after the Mission while he was sick. It was now a fairly large organisation, with a lot of responsibilities and it had only one leader – William. Catherine had not been involved in the Mission during its first years owing to her children, her health and her taking meetings, weeks at a time, in different parts of the country. However, she knew what was going on because she was very close to her husband who involved her in discussions and there were many meetings at her home. So, Catherine took over. She was the Mother of the Army.
In 1873 George Railton at 24 years of age joined the Mission as its secretary and he was to become one of its main leaders. On visiting the Mission six months earlier he immediately understood the vision. He found ‘a real individual life which would propagate itself’ and ‘a battalion of trained male and female soldiers, quite remarkable for their steadiness as for their readiness.’ He saw that money could pour into the East End from well-meaning people, but it would just be wasted unless local people worked together with God to change things. Railton was devoted to serving the Mission and even came up with several ideas for its improvement. He helped William with editing the magazine and wrote some of their hymns and two books.
Although the work was moving forward, it was not all good news. In Edinburgh and Brighton, there was division and they pulled away from the Mission. Sometimes the wrong person was put in charge, sometimes people just did not like the rules. No stations were opened in 1871 or 1872, partly because the right leaders could not be found and partly because William was off sick for long periods.
However, matters picked up in 1873. A new building was opened in Canning Town, just before the New Year, and in the new year there was a new building at Croydon, Poplar, North Woolwich and buildings were purchased for Plaistow and Buckland. In 1874 a building was bought for Chatham, one leased for Stoke Newington and one built for Wellingborough and the following year one for Hackney.
By 1876 the names of the Booth’s two eldest children (out of eight), Bramwell and Katie, were beginning to appear as evangelists for the Mission. The rest will start to appear soon, although one was considerably disabled and her involvement was less than the others. William made it clear that their position in the organisation was dependent on God and their gifting, not being a child of his.
Up until 1871 the Mission was completely controlled from Headquarters, but then Superintendents started to be appointed who were responsible for their area. By 1874 there were eight superintendents, showing how decentralised the Mission had become.
William came up with a Constitution for the Mission in 1870, which was revised in 1875. In it the Conference was made the final authority in the Christian Mission. It was based on that of the New Connexion Methodists. One major difference was that women were admitted to full participation, not only in the work of the Mission but also in its government; another difference was that you were not allowed to drink alcohol if you were an officer of the Mission.
Conference was composed of the General Superintendent of the Mission (William), the secretary, the treasurers of the Conference Fund, the life members or ‘guardian representatives’ (Catherine being the first), evangelists in charge of districts and two lay delegates. William had the power to do anything except over-ride Conference, although this changed in 1875.
There was a lot of hope that the Constitution would work wonderfully, but the reality was that everything was decided by committee, down to deciding who should give out tracts. There was too much bureaucracy. In Conference, rules of debate were closely observed. Alterations, big or small, were made the subject of formal resolutions. Older missioners spent their time on committees instead of actively working and newcomers were put off from working because of all the red tape they had to go through.
In the twelve months to June 1876, only one station had opened. This was Leicester, following a successful mission by Catherine. At the end of the year, the figures showed that the Mission stood still. William moaned that Conference was largely monopolised by ‘dried-up theoretical legislators’. ‘I want the holiest and most devoted men and women to come to the front.’ Another reason for the lack of growth was that many of these new buildings had been financed through mortgages and they found much of their focus was on raising money to pay off the interest and capital, rather than taking advantage of the wonderful new venues.
Another disappointment was the closing of Sunday Schools because they failed the children wherever they existed. It was thought that in order to succeed there needed to be a separate organisation with staff dedicated to children’s work.
Another was the failure of the soup kitchen. It worked well for a time, but then the man in charge died of overwork. The Mission slowly gave up general relief work until they stopped in 1877.
Late in 1876, a deputation of the leadership went to William, saying that they were fed up with the attempted government by Conference; they had joined the Mission to serve William, so would William please take control. The Conference Committee met in January, agreeing unanimously that decisions took too long, that they were at war so they needed a war council and not a legislative assembly. A new spirit flowed through the Mission.
The first problem was Leicester, where the evangelist in charge had gone off with most of the members. A new building was acquired in February and the redoubtable William Corbridge was put in charge and the station went forward. William was determined to press on in any way to win the lost; be it having Hallelujah bands of colliers or an evangelist playing the fiddle through the streets – whatever worked, whatever the criticism. The evangelists seemed to have taken the idea of being in a war to heart. There are several reports of evangelists at different stations saying ‘Victory or death’, and talking of ‘attacking the enemy camp’. (Soon, all the reports coming from all over the country, were termed in the same military language.) Sitting back was not an option.
The Conference in June 1877 accepted William’s proposals, he said it was a matter of trust in him. He announced that four new stations had been opened and nine had been closed. He said that he had been in error in agreeing to the opening of these stations. Some were in small areas that required buildings and evangelists, just the same as larger areas that had greater potential. So, William thought it best to transfer assets to areas where the fruit would be greater. He spoke in detail on three subjects and their importance to bringing people to Jesus. Hallelujah Bands, Holiness (the importance of this was to grow substantially over the next few years) and Singing, which needed to be congregational, hearty and useful.
At Stockton, there were two converts from a Brass Band and they played in the procession – this was the first use of brass instruments. Another new idea, was lunchtime meetings as in the winter months the evening meetings were dark and cold. In March 1878 the first two women left King’s Cross to take over the station at Felling-on-Tyne. Young women in charge of stations were soon to be called ‘Hallelujah Lasses’ and they were extraordinarily successful. The term was coined by a printer who was preparing a poster advertising the two ladies. By April 1878, nine out of 36 stations were led by Hallelujah Lasses.
I have not read anything about this, but I assume that the huge growth in stations in 1877 and 1879 (from 21 to 130) was possible because of these young women who were normally under 30, with one of the most successful only 18. The Mission had often had to employ its evangelists from outside its ranks, but now they were producing their own at a great rate.
In 1878 there was an early morning meeting with George Railton, Bramwell Booth and William. They were discussing the cover of the Mission’s report for the year and it said ‘Volunteer Army’. William said that that was wrong, they were not volunteers, because they felt compelled to do the work and they were always on duty. He then crossed the room and put his pen through ‘Volunteer’ and wrote ‘Salvation’ above it!
One of the Hallelujah Lasses went into the Whitechapel hall on the morning of the assembly of the War Congress (the last Conference of the Christian Mission) and found a large sign being put up over the platform that said, ‘SALVATION ARMY’. Congress adopted a military form of government and it only lasted because the soldiers agreed with and supported the whole thing.
At the Congress, William instructed that no station should go into debt without informing him before the event. This was in response to several stations getting into debt over their normal expenses – not anything to do with a mortgage. He also said that any evangelist who was not happy with the new arrangements could leave and he would try his best to find them alternative work – few did.
The General summed it up in 1881 by saying, ‘We tried for eleven years, various methods. We tried many plans… Gradually, the Movement took more of the military form, and finding, as we looked upon it, some four years ago, that God in His good providence had led us unwittingly, so to speak, to make an army, we called it an army, and seeing that it was an army organised for the deliverance of mankind from sin and the power of the devil, we called it an army of deliverance; an army of salvation – The Salvation Army.
The Hallelujah Lasses were extraordinary. I am not sure though how they came about; I did read that female evangelists had been used as a trial but had not really worked. I wonder if General Booth was pressured into sending young women due to these passionate new Christians threatening to go out on their own, or whether it was because there were not enough men to fill the posts in this time of extreme expansion. Then again, why women as young as 17? One would think that Catherine, a powerful preacher herself might have had some influence on this.
However it came about, one must remember that these young women were in fact full-blown ministers and it would be about 100 years later before other denominations allowed women into that position. These young women, two at a time, went out with little money to set up an organisation in an area where they knew nobody and where the people were mainly antagonistic. They had to raise money for their own living expenses and for the costs of the mission. They were mocked, reviled, had stones etc thrown at them and they were even put in prison. The workload was extremely hard and the health of many broke down and they had to rest for a time or give up – some even died. Because of the workload, they were usually moved on after six months.
In September 1878, the first two young women were sent out to Consett, where they were to set up a station. They were wonderfully successful with nearly 400 giving their lives to Jesus in the first six weeks. In the same month, a Welsh speaker was needed for Aberdare. Railton sent out Mrs Pamela Shepherd, who was the housekeeper and cook at the Whitechapel headquarters. Two weeks later she set out with her four daughters and a revival began. Some men from the Rhondda Valley begged that one of the daughters start meeting outside Aberdare, so Katie was sent and a revival began. Then Katie was sent to Pentre and at 17 she was in charge. A wonderful revival ensued with thousands coming to the Lord. It was evidently what happened here that persuaded the General that women could lead stations. Great things happened in Gateshead, Darlington and other places as well.
These two or three years were extraordinarily successful and it was not just with the young women. Almost wherever a station was opened there was a move of God. Sadly, there were failures as well; Rotherham began really well, but then fell into division and the work fell apart.
While the General was fully occupied organising and directing this great expansion of the Army, Catherine was free to teach the people through her addresses and writings. The General compiled ‘orders’ so that everyone was focussing in the same direction as a unified force. The first publication was on, ‘how to attack, capture and hold towns, together with the system which is to be carried out at every station.’ This included instructions about courting and marrying which were quite controversial and led to some calling them a sect. These rules were very similar to those of the Army and Navy, but there was no change in the Salvation Army’s objects – to get people to accept salvation and then turn them into evangelists.
An obvious sign of militarisation was the adoption of military ranks. So, the head evangelist at a station would be designated ‘Captain’ and their number 2, ‘Lieutenant’. William was of course the ‘General’, but many had called him that for a long time as he was the General Superintendent.
The military system was highlighted by Catherine going around the country presenting the Corps a banner. The stations were given numbers based on how long they had been in existence and each one received the now-famous Salvation Army flag, with the words ‘Blood and Fire’ on it. Catherine explains ‘the crimson represents the precious blood by which we are all redeemed; the blue is God’s chosen emblem of purity; the sun represents both light and heat, the light and life of men; and the motto, ‘Blood and Fire’, the blood of the Lamb and the fire of the Holy Ghost. The flag is a symbol, first of our devotion to our great Captain in heaven and to the great purpose for which He came down and shed His blood that He might redeem men and women from sin and death and hell. Secondly, the flag is emblematic of our faithfulness to our great trust…’
Railton wrote that flags had done more than expected in unifying the soldiers. A flag was introduced because so many people carried flags in procession that it was thought good to create one that everybody could carry. In 1882 the sun was changed to a star, representing Holy Spirit.
Evangelists had long worn a sort of uniform, a dress coat, black tie, top hat etc. A leading evangelist, Elijah Cadman said, ‘I would like to wear a suit of clothes that would let everyone know I meant war to the teeth and Salvation for the world!’ It was decided to adopt a uniform and immediately some of the evangelists put on special headgear or other insignia until early 1883 when the uniforms were given out. It was never made compulsory to wear one.
With the huge expansion, there was a need to split the stations into divisions and a Major would have oversight of these. At this time Bramwell Booth was the General’s travelling secretary (in 1881 he became Chief of Staff) and Edmonds, although a teenager was ADC to the General. This youngster was responsible for the opening of new corps and even the firing of unsatisfactory officers. In 1881 he was given £5 and told to cover the whole of Scotland as soon as possible, despite there only being 4 corps there.
A report from the October 1882, Council of War for Majors said, ‘We were all deeply impressed with the appearance of that grand roomful of staff officers. Never perhaps before were so many men and women, full of such desperate devotion, bent upon the same radical plans, brought together, to spend days in consultation with such perfect love to one another and such total absence of anything whatever of an unpleasing kind. The union of mind and heart in the Army is becoming more and more astonishing in its completeness every day.’ It sounds like the militarisation of the Mission achieved its purpose to bring unity in relationships and purpose. It appears that it really had a positive impact on most of the Salvationists/Soldiers. They seemed to really believe that they were soldiers in a war and they treated their town as a war zone, one in which it was vital to save people from going to hell. This, going to war, seems to have created much fruit in the different towns.
By 1886, the original 8 divisions had become 85 and the rank of Colonel was introduced for officers in charge of the more important of these.
In 1882 Articles of War had to be signed by every recruit and they included a condition that the soldiers had to abstain from drinking any alcohol.
Many of the officers were young men and women, a number still in their teens, yet given great responsibilities. Some officers came from mature people experienced in other spheres; these were sometimes unsuccessful because the person was too ingrained with what they had learned in their previous employment.
William Booth had always been very keen on Holiness, but this increased after a conference was held on the subject to which church leaders came from all over the country. This was led by William Boardman (see the film on this website) and based on his book ‘the Higher Christian Life'. The first main article of the magazine in 1868 was on the subject and when the War Cry began in 1880, there was a Holiness article every week for at least three years. From the late 1870s, there were Holiness meetings all over the different Corps. They were about receiving the Baptism of Fire (see booklet on the website) and I have read in ‘The Salvationist’ and ‘The War Cry’ many accounts of people saying that the Holiness meeting was vital for the work of evangelism, because those who received the Baptism, received more of God’s power and a greater passion for the lost. The General placed it in the forefront of his teaching wherever he went, it was a major key to the success of the Salvation Army.
Someone wrote in April 1869 about why it was so important, ‘This is what we are crying for in the East of London. The baptism of the Holy Ghost, and of Fire. But how much more might be done had you all received this Pentecostal baptism in all its fulness. If every soul were inflamed, and every lip touched, and every mind illuminated, and every heart purified with the hallowed flame. O what zeal, what self-denial, what meekness, what boldness, what holiness, what love would there not be? And with all this, what power for your great work? The whole city would feel it. God's people in every direction would catch the fire, and sinners would fall on every side. Difficulties would vanish, devils be conquered, infidels believe, and the glory of God be displayed.’
It was Bramwell Booth’s responsibility to hold a Holiness meeting every week at Headquarters. I include here examples of such meetings.
(The following article from The Christian Mission Magazine for September 1878, gives an account of "A Night of Prayer," lasting from the 8th to the 9th of August:
Compelled from want of space to include a full report in detail, we must endeavour, as briefly as possible, to describe what was undoubtedly the most wonderful meeting ever held in the history of the Mission.
The whole company, amounting to three or four hundred, settled down for the whole night, a very great advantage over meetings from which many have had to retire at midnight or early morning and from the beginning to the end, weary as almost everyone was, after four days of almost ceaseless [previous] services, the interest and life of the meeting never diminished.
Scarcely had the first hymn been commenced, when a company of butchers assembled in a yard next door, with the avowed intention of disturbing us, commenced a hullabaloo with blowing a horn, rattling of cans, and other articles, so as to keep up a ceaseless din, which was heard even whilst the whole company sang aloud. But nobody was disturbed. We felt we were fighting, that was all, and everyone seemed to sing all the more gladly and confidently,
Glory, glory, Jesus saves me,
Glory, glory to the Lamb.
But the enemy had a new device. By burning something placed near open ventilators, and in a stovepipe that passed through that wall, they filled the air all through the building with an effluvium which set everyone coughing. Two or three sisters in delicate health had to go out for a few minutes. Singing and praying became for a while all but impossible. There was a rush of strong men to close up every aperture. The stove pipe was not only stopped but pulled down in a few seconds, and a watchman was soon at a top window with a bull's-eye ready for identification and defence, should they again come up to the attack. Throughout, we saw no ruffled countenance, no clouded brow, heard no harsh word. The disturbance was met even more promptly within the minds and hearts of the company than in its outward forms, and then, with a relieved atmosphere and an increased joy, we betook ourselves again to the business of the night.
We give up all attempts to even sum up the addresses delivered by Mr Booth, Mr Bramwell and Miss Booth, Bros. Robinson, Dowdle, Corbridge, and Sister Dowdle. The great object of the meeting was to address God, and it was in prayer and in receiving answers that the meeting was above all distinguished.
Round the table in the great central square, Satan was fought and conquered, as it were, visibly by scores of persons whose names and numbers no one attempted to take. Evangelists came there burdened with the consciousness of past failings and unfaithfulness and were so filled with the power of God that they literally danced for joy. Brethren and sisters who had hesitated as to yielding themselves to go forth anywhere to preach Jesus, came and were set free from every doubt and fear, and numbers whose peculiar besetment and difficulties God alone can read came and washed and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb.
That scene of wrestling prayer and triumphing faith no one who saw it can ever forget. We saw one collier labouring with his fists upon the floor and in the air, just as he was accustomed to struggle with the rock in his daily toil until at length he gained the diamond he was seeking perfect deliverance from the carnal mind and rose up shouting and almost leaping for joy. Big men, as well as women, fell to the ground, lay there for some time as if dead, overwhelmed with the Power from on High. When the gladness of all God's mighty deliverance burst upon some, they laughed as well as cried for joy, and some of the younger evangelists might have been seen, like lads at play, locked in one another's arms and rolling each other over on the floor.
Well, perhaps there was something besides the genuine work of the Holy Ghost there, perhaps there were cases of self-deception and presumption, perhaps there were some carried away by the contagion of the general feeling. How could it ever be otherwise while Satan comes up with the people of the Lord? But, at any rate, God wrought there with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm, so as to confound the wicked one and to raise many of His people into such righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost as they never had before, and thousands, if not millions, of souls will have to rejoice forever over blessings received by them through the instrumentality of those who were sanctified or quickened between the 8th and 9th of August, 1878.
The usual un-intoxicating wine not having been prepared for sacrament, we managed uncommonly well with water, and in fact, everybody seemed to have got into a condition in which outward circumstances are scarcely noticed, and the soul feasts on God, no matter what passes outside. We had been drinking the best wine for hours. After sacrament only a quarter of an hour remained for the love feast if we were to conclude, as intended, at six; but under Captain Cadman's energetic leading eighty-one bore their clear simple testimony to the Blood that cleanses from all sin in a very few minutes over that time, and after a little
prayer we parted. Of course, some felt sleepy when all was over; but so little exhausted were most of the evangelists, that a business meeting, which commenced at 7 o'clock, was kept up with energy for nearly two hours, while many remained and transacted business with Mr Booth until one o'clock.
Another account, this time of a "Musical Service," shows how the enthusiasm of the people was welcomed as a return to the religion of the first century:
. . . The sight of the faces on the platform was one never to be forgotten it was more than joy that lit them all up it was the rapture of spiritual drunkards. When we saw one
brother, advanced in years and stiffened by the long habit of solemn religious "ordinances," dancing, yes, fairly dancing to the music, whilst others, less constrained, were tossing bare
arms about and rolling hither and thither as they sang, we realised as never before how free and easy the grace of God can make the people. Here is once more the old religion, reckless of public opinion and full of glory and God which made it necessary for the apostles to recommend sobriety.
Mr Ballington Booth, a month later, gives a brief description of a "Holiness Meeting,":
September 13th was a wonderful time. Never shall I forget it. Oh, God did search all hearts that night. After speaking about giving up all and being kept by the power of God, and singing "I am trusting, Lord, in Thee," we fell on our faces for silent prayer. Then God Almighty began to convict and strive. Some began to weep, some groaned, some cried out aloud to God. One man said, "If I cannot get this blessing I cannot live"; another said, "There's something, there's something. Oh, my God, my God, help me. Set me straight; put my heart straight"; and while we sang
Saves me now, saves me now,
My Jesus saves me now,
a dear young sister stepped up to the table, then two more followed, and now we sang again,
Saves me now, saves me now,
Yes, Jesus saves me now.
Many more were smitten. We dropped on our knees again. Five or six more came forward. One dear man took his pipe from his pocket and laid it on the table, resolved that it should stand between his soul and God no longer. Then six or seven more came forward. We could scarce then sing or pray. Everyone was overpowered by the Spirit. One young man, after struggling and wrestling for nearly an hour, shouted
"Glory! glory! glory! I've got it. Oh! Bless God!"
One young woman shook her head, saying, "No, not tonight," but soon was seen on the ground pleading mightily with God. Every un-sanctified man or woman felt indescribably. Three or four times we cleared the tables and forms, and again and again, they were filled. And all joined in singing the words,
I have thee, oh! I have thee
Every hour I have thee;
and one brother said, "Oh, oh! if this ain't heaven, what'll heaven be?" Another brother said, "I must jump." I said, "Then jump," and he jumped all round. So we sang, cried,
laughed, shouted, and after twenty-three had given their all to the Master, trusting Him to keep them from sinning, as He had pardoned their sins, we closed, singing
Glory, glory, Jesus saves me,
Glory, glory to the Lamb.
Glory, glory, glory, glory to Jesus, to JESUS. We must conquer and win Hayle for Jesus. Good times all day on Sunday. Saints jumping, dancing, crying, shouting, and rolling on the ground. We disgusted some people. Hallelujah. Blood-washed Johnny.
. . . Then came the power. All got down after Mr Ballington said a few words; then came the glory; such a rush out: then a fight and a struggle. Out came seven feathers, three pipes,
three pairs of earrings, three brooches, two other fine things, one grand pin, one Albert chain, one tobacco pouch, two pieces of twist, one 24 inches long. They did go in; I never saw such a meeting. Mr Ballington asked one man, "Does He save you?" He said, "He does." "Tell Him He does again," said Mr Ballington. He kept telling Him. At last, he said, "Mr Booth, I shall burst if God does not enlarge the vessel." Then he got them to sing, "The Lamb, the Lamb," and they did sing it.
Never can I forget Tuesday night’s Holiness Meeting, held in the Salvation Chapel, Spring Garden Lane. . . . God backed the speaking with convicting, cutting power, after which His
Spirit was poured upon us in an overwhelming manner. Immediately afterwards some twenty rushed forward for this freedom from sin. We sang. Weeping and groaning commenced in all parts, when some twenty more rushed forward. Oh, the scene at this juncture. One dear lad, not above seventeen, after lying his length on the ground for some time, cried out, "Oh, it’s come. I have it. Oh, God! my God! my God! You do cleanse me." Then followed more wrestling and agonising, and the forms again being cleared of those who had obtained liberty, some twenty more sprang to the front, and plunged into "the pool." Once more we cleared them, but only to make room for more who were waiting to come out and sing, "I believe, I believe, Jesus saves, Jesus saves"; but at this point nothing could be heard save sobs and groans and heart-rending prayers. Thus continued this mighty outpour until upwards of seventy rose testifying with feelings indescribable and unutterable joy, while all around stood weeping and rejoicing, singing and shouting.
A young man who rushed out of his seat fell at the penitent form and cried for mercy which he soon obtained as soon as he ventured his all on the Blood being so overpowered with the glory, for we had it down and no mistake, got up, and looking in my face with his hands on his breast, said: "I think I am going to die, but the Blood cleanseth me." I turned to Brother Davies and said, "This fellow is going to die"; and he shouts, "Hallelujah." I turned to the fellow and said, "Get on your knees, and if you die, die at the feet of Jesus"; but, thank God, he is only just beginning to live, and he is still alive and means to fight in the Army. Glory to God.
I went to one young man that was kneeling at the penitent form; he was just like a block of marble, he knelt with his hands clasped, and his eyes raised to Heaven. I laid my hand on his shoulder and said to him, "My brother, what have you come out to this form for?" He did not speak for a few moments. At last, he gasped out, at the same time laying his hand on his breast, "Oh, it’s all here, I never felt like this before," then the tears began to flow, and he began to shout, "Oh, I want Christ! I want Christ! I want Christ!" and Glory to God he soon got what he wanted for none ever sought His face in vain.
A sanctifying influence and convincing power seemed to steal overall as we sang, "I am coming to the Cross." And we did get to the Cross to its very foot. After prevailing prayer
Captains Smith, Haywood, and Coombs gave powerful testimonies of Christ’s taking away and keeping from the desire of sin. I felt unutterably filled with the Spirit. Never shall I forget the scene that took place when all unsanctified were asked to come forward. It seemed as if Christ said, "What will ye that I should do unto you?" Some, when it came to real definite work, we found had not yet the witness of pardon; others had for years been hungering and thirsting for deliverance from the power of sin but had been clinging to some fond idol. There was a cry on all sides. Some fifteen or sixteen rushed to the front. "Oh, Lord, I’ll not get up till Thou hast sanctified me," said one young man. "My Lord, my Saviour," said one dear young woman, "You know for years this is what I have been seeking: Oh, Jesus, Jesus, give it to me." And He did, and she rose, clapped her hands, and shouted for joy. After this, over twenty more rushed forward; while those who had obtained the blissful peace stood round singing, with faces of rapture and tears of joy, "I am sure, I am sure Jesus saves, Jesus saves, and His Blood makes me whiter than snow." More idols cast at Christ’s feet; more rose feeling the liberty; more room was made for those yet seeking; more rushed forward; and while weeping and wrestling and groaning on all sides, a man cried out, “I’m willing! I’m willing! I’m willing!" "What are you willing to do, my brother?" I asked. "Oh," he replied, "willing to confess Christ before my shop-mates." Some nine or ten forms were cleared until over 200 came forward seeking in an agony of soul and heart a life of purity. We finished this meeting with 250 testimonies.
One dear woman says she will have to thank God forever for sending the Salvation Army here. She would not yield at our meeting, so she went to our Council of War at Merthyr, and
stayed at the all-night of prayer when God set her captive soul at liberty. When she got saved she shouted and jumped like a madwoman, and Happy Jack jumped with her. It just suited me. Oh, Hallelujah! When she came out her husband scolded her for shouting so and making so much noise. Since then he has got saved too. He was as bad as his wife. As soon as he got saved he jumped up and shouted, "This is Glory! This is Glory! This is Glory!" And we all shouted together. This man went shouting all the way home, "THIS IS GLORY! THIS IS GLORY!" and we could hear him five hundred yards off. One man said to me, "You have sent him right off his head." I said, "He is all right. They suit me." Oh, Hallelujah!)
Travailing Prayer (see booklet on this website) was also very important to the soldiers. Time and again, right from the beginning there are stories of evangelists meeting obstacles and then getting on their knees and travailing and breakthrough would come. ‘Prayer was soon answered and every believer got filled with God, and began travailing in birth for souls; and we once more proved our blessed God true to his promise, "When Zion travails she shall bring forth." Backsliders have been re-claimed, sinners saved and believers sanctified.’ Every Corps would regularly have 7.00 am Saturday ‘Knee-drill’ (prayer meetings) which were essential before going to minister on the streets, which would have involved Travailing Prayer.
‘The prayer meetings on the Saturday nights are glorious times. The spirit of prayer prevails. What strong cries for souls! what pleadings of the promises sealed with the all-prevailing blood! what wrestlings for the salvation of sinners! what assurance of faith, mixed with shouts of Amen! Glory! Hallelujah! and Praise the Lord!’
Baptism of Fire and Travailing Prayer are absolutely critical if we want revival to come again.
Discipline was strict. In the first issue of the War Cry, it announced the reduction in the ranks of four officers. One for getting engaged without permission, one for misbehaving in the presence of the enemy and two were guilty of light and frivolous conversation. Keeping discipline must have been hard during this time of growth. There were 120 officers in 1878 and eight years later there were 3,602!
Training the officers started in 1880 with the provision of a residential building for potential female officers, which was supervised by Emma Booth and the following year there was a similar building for training the men, which was supervised by Ballington Booth. The idea was to, test the genuineness of the candidate, teach the outlines of Bible history and theology, including reading, writing and spelling (for many had received little education), teaching home and personal habits, train them in street work, house to house visits etc, develop and encourage devotion to God. By 1882 over 400 cadets had been sent out as officers.
Over the next few years training expanded until the norm was for the cadets to receive 6 months of training, three months in the home and three months in the field. By June 1886 2,600 cadets had been trained.
The huge expansion at the end of the 1870s meant that there were many more exciting things to report about in ‘the Salvationist’. At virtually every new station a revival occurred that needed to be reported, but the magazine was too small to report everything and there were complaints from the different stations that they were being ignored. There was a desire to move to a weekly newspaper earlier, but everyone was so busy that they had no time to do it. Eventually, the weekly War Cry was published in the last week of 1879 until October 1882 when it went twice weekly, until February 1886 when it went weekly again, but was enlarged to 16 pages – it had an average circulation of 200,000. The ‘Little Soldier’ was published in August 1881 and the ‘All the World’, aimed at overseas corps, in November 1884.
Financing this growing organisation was a very difficult task. The General was in control of this at this time. He had a great instinct for the subject and he also employed good people, but he would only take their advice when it matched his instinct on the subject. Bramwell Booth, as Chief of Staff, took over a great deal of the responsibility as he had been trained to a degree in business matters. However, he admitted that he and his father had little experience or knowledge of the decisions that had to be made, and he often had to study first-hand the questions on which they needed information.
The General told every Corps that it should aim to be self-sufficient, although he realised that would include raising money from outside. The amount of giving by people who were very poor was exceptional. Each Corps was to give 10% of their income to run the divisional oversight. Four times a year the offerings from a Sunday and a weekday meeting would go towards training, overseas work and the general spiritual fund. Some of the larger projects, such as the purchase of buildings could not have been done without the generous gifts from philanthropists.
The General sometimes preferred to buy buildings as it relieved the Army from significant rental costs, but he also recognised that renting had its advantages in that if the venture did not work the building could be given up, as it could be if they outgrew the venue. (this should be noted today. A church should always be growing or it is unsuccessful, so if a building is bought, one would always be selling it and buying a bigger one). Probably due to the General’s vision being so big, from time to time, there were serious shortfalls in money, but appeals to the Body always brought in the required money.
In December 1884, ‘The Times’ wrote, ‘The management of the Salvation Army bears witness to a method and shrewdness in dealing with circumstances which would have secured the prosperity of a commercial undertaking… As a business, the movement has beyond doubt been excellently conducted.’ In 1886 Railton wrote, ‘Overall the twenty-one years no creditor had been left without full satisfaction of its claims.’ (I think it is difficult to imagine the pressure the leadership must have been under for years to meet its financial obligations month by month. The number of buildings that were needed, not just at all the corps, but for training, for administration and for housing; was huge. There was only one way to deal with these pressures – on their knees. God was their provider. Their situation reminds me of that of Holy Trinity Brompton and the enormous expansion of the Alpha Course. Their vision was always greater than their income, but God always provided because it was His vision too, just as the General’s vision was.)
As mentioned they gave up Sunday Schools because they did not want to make the children scholars, but soldiers. Hence, the ‘Little Soldier’ publication, which, in its first issue said that the object of every meeting to do with children was Salvation. There were different attempts to organise the children, but nothing worked until 1886 when they divided the children into companies, with an adult sergeant in charge and a sergeant-major over all the companies.
In 1884 a new work was begun as a result of the awareness of the way people lived in the city slums. It was decided that cadet volunteers from the training homes would go out for no more than a month, in teams, to live amongst the people in the slums. They were called the Cellar, Gutter and Garret Brigade. They would spend each day going from house to house, washing the children, scrubbing the floors, nursing the sick, listening to problems – they took God, Salvation and hope to these sad places. In the evening they gave out tracts and spent time talking to people about their souls.
Having noted that the playing of musical instruments attracted crowds, the General encouraged every officer and soldier to learn how to play one. In February 1881 an article written by Booth in the War Cry had an accompanying cartoon of someone holding a tambourine. People took up playing different instruments, but it was the tambourine that was most popular, with 1,600 being sold in six weeks.
The General was a long time of the opinion that solo singing was best because you could clearly hear the words; it was quite a number of years before he understood that congregational singing was just as good. Hymns were called songs to get away from any connection with a church building, and Salvationists started to compose their own ‘war’ songs, many of which became very popular. Someone wrote, ‘Hymns under all circumstances have been meat and drink to me, but the Salvation Army songs have tapped a new mine. I have felt like an old warhorse hearing the trumpet sound at mass meetings. My whole being has been stirred by the power and intensity of these wonderful compositions.’
The first brass band used in the Salvation was that of a father and three sons in Salisbury. When a new Captain visited the Fry family in 1878, he found that they were all expert musicians and he asked them if they would come and play at the meetings in order to drown out the mob who were prone to singing popular songs to interrupt the speakers. Their concerted playing quickly solved the problem. The General got to hear about it and went to hear for himself; afterwards asking the Frys’ to play at some select meetings to test the water. The experiment was so successful that brass bands were immediately added to the Salvation Army’s methods to attract people. Two years later a big drum was added and then a second cornet.
The overall head of music at the Salvation Army wrote of the father Fry, who died in 1882, ‘I have never known a man who left behind a better report of the saintly life … and the Holy Spirit put His unquestionable seal upon all his labours…How gracious God has been by putting at the head of our musical forces a man so good, so gifted, so triumphant in a holy life of splendid service in the Army.’
To begin with, the General supported Baptism and Communion but later dropped them as he did not believe them crucial to Salvation. Catherine and Railton were the main forces behind this, believing that people could be deceived into thinking that they can be saved through going through a ceremony, instead of an inward change of heart. Instead of formal baptism, there was baptism of the Holy Spirit. In place of infant baptism was a dedication service. With regard to Communion; the Bible indicates that Jesus wanted people to remember him whenever they ate, that taking wine was dangerous for all the ex-drunkards at the meeting, and when deciding who could take Communion and who couldn’t, a division could occur.
They also did not believe that the use of a building for spiritual purposes gave the building some sort of special sanctity.
By 1881, the Church of England was generally pretty supportive of the work of the Salvation Army, as were other denominations. There were many reports during moves of God that denominations offered their building for services. This is probably because they saw them as no competition. In many instances, a significant proportion of people being saved joined other local churches, and most of them realised that the Salvation Army was targeting the roughs, who denominations had tried embracing for centuries, but never succeeded and now they saw that the Army was. Churches generally recognised that the Army was full of passion and energy and that they could reach the hearts of the working classes.
The Bishop of Durham in 1882 said, ‘…Whatever may be its faults, it has at least recalled us to this lost ideal of the work of the Church – universal compulsion of the souls of men. A year earlier ‘The Christian Week’ said, ‘Underneath their rough and forbidding exterior we discover a type of Christianity so bright, so heroic and so pure that it puts to shame the cold and fashionable Christianity of those who are pronounced in their condemnation.’
There were even talks on in what ways the Church of England and the Salvation Army could ally with each other, but the differences were insurmountable, not least the military system the Army had adopted. As far as the General was concerned, union with the Church of England would not help in reaching the working class, they did not want to be linked in with the ceremonial aspects and they could not burden the Church with responsibility for their actions… If he were the Archbishop he would not take on the responsibility of the General unless he had the power to muzzle him. The Methodists also thought about a union with the Army. (that may have made more sense as they had all these large chapels around the country and after all the General had been a Methodist.)
With the breakdown in discussions, the Church of England started the Church Army, copying the Salvation Army’s methods to get to the unsaved. A few vicars were already trying to do something similar, but it was the Church Army that became predominant. There were others in different denominations who endeavoured to copy the success of the Army.
Although they had a lot of support, they of course received a lot of criticism. It was ever thus that people in the Church body who do nothing themselves, feel they can find fault with people who are pouring their lives out for Jesus.
The first half of the 1880s was a time of increased persecution as more and more Corps were opened around the country. As mentioned, the main persecutors were the publicans. The problem was that as there were 49,000 around the country, most of them very small businesses, so they only had to lose a few customers to the Salvation Army before they were in financial difficulties.
There were a few really nasty altercations. In 1881 at Basingstoke the Horse Artillery had to be used to quell the mob. The open-air meetings and processions were attacked, as were the homes and places of business of suspected Army sympathisers. In the same year, the leaders at Reading were nearly killed. The following year was the ‘Sheffield Riot’. A large procession that included William and Catherine, was, according to the newspapers, attacked with savage ferocity. A Salvation Army officer who was on a horse was badly hurt and remained unconscious for hours – he never did fully recover. Also, in 1882 there were brutal attacks on the Salvationists, with the wife of a Captain knocked down and kicked until she was unconscious and a dear Sister was killed. In 1884 in Worthing, the Salvationists were attacked for weeks. At one point the troops were called in and the Riot Act was read out. The Corp’s landlord’s shop was almost destroyed and then one day the mob was planning to attack an open-air meeting, but there wasn’t one that day, so they went to Shoreham, smashed all the windows of the Corps’ hall there and Captain Sarah Broadbent was killed by a flying stone.
The problems often came from publicans and brewers. They would sometimes employ gangs of ‘roughs’ to attack, harass and mock and they would sometimes be mayors or magistrates; in which cases the Salvationists did not get any protection from the law. These corrupt people would use their power to get Salvationists fined or put in prison. Often the accused would refuse to pay their fines as they knew that they were innocent of the charges and so they ended up in jail. One such tragic circumstance was the wonderful Captain Louisa Lock, who led a revival in Pentre, South Wales. She and four men knelt to pray in the street and they were arrested and fined for obstruction. They refused to pay the fine and were put in jail. She was jailed for just three days, but she had a weak constitution, caught a disease there and died 18 months later.
Some of these cases were appealed and higher Courts found for the Army. Eventually, the number of decisions in their favour persuaded the town mayors to stop bringing court actions, but not before many injustices had occurred. During 1884, no fewer than 600 Salvationists were incarcerated. In 1882, 669 soldiers and officers were knocked down, kicked or otherwise brutally assaulted, including 251 women and 23 children under 15.
This was also a period of expansion overseas. America was attacked in 1879, Australia in 1880, France in 1881, Canada and India in 1882, and Switzerland, Sweden, New Zealand and South Africa in 1883.
Such growth at home and abroad required many new buildings. There were two fads a few years earlier, ice skating and the circus and many buildings went up to house these activities, but ice skating soon lost popularity, as did housing circus’s away from the big tent. This meant that the Army was able to get hold of many of these buildings on the cheap and most of them would hold 3,000 people. The Army also needed a new Headquarters which they moved to Queen Victoria Street, London and a training centre and conference hall, which they found in Clacton.
In May 1886 there was the first International Congress. The General announced that in the nineteen countries, there were 1,552 corps (compared with 21 in 1877), 3,602 officers, 28,200 meetings were held weekly and that buildings offered seats for 526,000 people.
‘The Times’ said, ‘For good or for evil the Army has taken full root as a national institution
… the day has long gone by when the prophecy that the Salvation craze would subside as rapidly as it rose has been falsified by events. The Salvation Army is an established fact and it wields an immense power all over the world.’
So, the Salvation Army had arrived. There is just one thing to add - how did the Salvation Army that was so into Evangelism and Holiness get into the Social Action that it is known for today.
William Booth was a man of huge vision and energy and I expect he would have evangelised the world if he could. Sometime in 1888, he was terribly impacted by seeing homeless people (sleeping in the snow) living under the bridges and this drove him in a new direction – social action. Up until now there had been some practical help, providing food for the poor for instance, but he had stopped it because he wanted all his financial and human resources focused on bringing in the lost. But now everything changed, all his immense energies went into formulating a plan to permanently change the physical condition of the poor. There were lots of charities pouring food, clothes etc into the poor areas, but the people were still left poor. William wanted to change their condition for good and pull them out of poverty.
What really triggered this change I do not know. Perhaps it was the homeless, or maybe it was the fact that his darling wife, Catherine, was going to die, having just been diagnosed with breast cancer. Anyway, he dived into the project and two years later he came up with a detailed plan in the form of a book called, ‘In Darkest England and the Way Out’. It was published just after Catherine’s death in 1890. It sold 10,000 copies immediately and created enormous interest. It was really a blueprint of what the Salvation Army was to become. However, as had been the case for years, there were a few influential people who were directly opposed to William and his work. He was accused of many things. Unfortunately, being an autocratic leader, he opened himself up to a lot of criticism. In his book he said he needed £100,000 to start working on the vision and within four months he received £108,000. His opponents, including The Times, spread rumours that he was taking the money for himself and the family and some harm was undoubtedly done to his and the Army’s reputation. William never answered criticism, however unjust it was, but he did organise an independent committee to look into all financial affairs, including his own. It reported that everything was as it should be and that William did not and had never taken a penny from Salvation Army finances.
The loss of his beloved wife was huge. Catherine had been incredibly influential in all that William did, and without her it is questionable if the Salvation Army would have existed. She was an extraordinary woman. Without her William immersed himself in his social scheme, bringing into being nearly everything he had laid out in "In Darkest England and the Way Out." The big question we are left with is - how did the Salvation Army stop evangelising and seeking holiness? How did it lose the "Blood and Fire".
Putting those questions aside, what an incredible achievement the creation of the Salvation Army was! What an extraordinary people William and Catherine Booth were was. We so need a similar organisation to rise up today!
I will just end with a summary of why the Salvation Army was so successful:
- Its leader William Booth, together with, in the early stages, Catherine Booth.
- They made all decisions through Holy Spirit!
- Travailing Prayer was their main weapon to bring spiritual breakthrough before they went out to evangelise or before they made a strategic move to take on a new venue, open a new station etc.
- Holiness, (the Baptism of Fire) was their second main weapon to give each person more power to attack the enemy with.
- They ignored church buildings as their target audience did not like them, so offered a host of different venues.
- They targeted a group that was not being reached by the churches and went out into the streets to gather them in.
- The evangelists were taught to speak simply and directly to the people in a way that they would understand. They put aside Christianese language.
- As in all revivals, the power of Testimony was enormous as the brand-new converts spoke to their friends in the streets about what God had done for them.
- They marched through every street in the town regularly, so that every person in the town would be aware of their presence and message (later playing musical instruments). In most towns, thousands would gather around to listen to the message. I do find it disappointing though that so many heard the message, but so few, relatively, responded. I would like to understand this.
- They marched people back to the venue where it was easier to preach and easier to pray for the people. A big venue, to cope with the crowds, was vital for the ministry, wherever they were. Nearly all stations reported one thousand or thousands attending Sunday night service.
- They insisted on people admitting their sin, repenting immediately and making a decision for Christ there and then.
- Rather than making a decision for Christ through reading Scripture, their aim was for people to understand in their hearts that Christ was the answer and most would have an encounter with God in the process. This was vital for a solid faith.
- They had a good system for following up and looking after new converts. They visited people house to house, provided food, evening classes, reading rooms etc.
- They encouraged the new converts to immediately speak out about their conversion and in doing so many became instant evangelists.
- They had a very successful model (the points above) and they had military discipline so that everybody did exactly the same. Just as in the army, each person knew the role they had and performed it. This enabled their success to be replicated across the world and splits and disunity were rare.
- The converts were instilled with such a passion, were so committed to seeing others saved and, possibly because of the Army ethos, they were so unified in their purpose, that they would do anything to achieve their goal. They would go out in all weathers and undergo extreme persecution to take the Gospel message to the people.
- The development of the Hallelujah Lasses was extraordinary. Young girls facing a mob of working men is an amazing picture. They also helped the Public Relations of the Salvation Army.
- In the early days, they knew their target audience was the rough men and the poor, so nearly every station was put near a mine, port etc.
- They underwent great persecution from roughs who were normally hired by publicans and brewers, and in places by the police, but they never reacted, often went to their knees. Many who came to mock and abuse were saved.
- Children were not ignored, they had their own services and own magazine.
- The monthly/weekly/bi-weekly magazine was full of revival reports and was used to stir up the comfortable.
Before finishing I should point out that in my opinion, it was not just the Salvation Army model that brought it huge success. The enormous growth periods seem to coincide with an awakening atmosphere being over the land. I need to do a lot more research into this as it is not something that I have seen mentioned in history books so far. It seems that the Lord was doing something very special over the UK, on and off between 1873-1885, something which D L Moody also benefited from during his visit here 1873-75.
Having said that, the Salvation Army seems to have been the only organisation (other than D L Moody) that took advantage of what the Lord was doing. Did William Booth and others recognise what the Lord was doing and stepped into it, or was he just obeying the word of God? I guess it does not matter. Whatever his reasoning, William Booth created an organisation that benefited millions across the globe, both spiritually and physically and I thank God for him.
There is a lot here for our churches today to learn from.
The main source was 'The History of the Salvation Army', by Robert Sandall, Volumes I and II.
Also, many copies of the various Salvation Army magazines 1868-1882.
'William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army', by Harold Begbie.
'Catherine Booth, the Mother of the Salvation Army', by Booth-Tucker.