William Booth First Indoor Meeting - Salvation Army (1865)

But the tent was an old one; soon the wind tore it to pieces and we were driven out of it by bad weather to

the only place we could procure. This room, which we could have only on Sabbath, was a miserable affair, seating but 350 people. We had to find our own forms, and some of our brethren had to come in their week-day clothes early on the Sabbath morning to move them in. The proprietor was a thoroughly godless man, a photographer, doing a large trade on the Sabbath; and while we were preaching, his customers were passing through the end of our place to his studio, his wife meanwhile sitting in the front room, colouring and getting up the pictures. We often talked to her concerning the godless life she was living, and she would frequently listen to the preaching, but she belonged to the class who assent to all that is said, and go on quietly in their sins. Her husband always kept out of the way.

Notwithstanding this wretched accommodation, and such unfavourable surroundings, we had many precious meetings here, to which some of our people often look back with pleasing memories, and many were, I doubt not, born here for heaven.

The following description of

in connection with the dancing room, jotted down in my journal at the time, will afford a tolerable idea of our work in this place: 

Morning.- Open-air preaching in Whitechapel, at the end of the New Road. Afterwards, in the Hall, an address, with the breaking of bread. The Lord was most manifestly present. Two backsliders wept much, one sobbing aloud while we commemorated the death of our crucified Lord.

Afternoon.-Preaching in the Commercial Road, and experience meeting in the hall.

Evening, from half-past five to seven. Mile End Road; excellent service. Hundreds appeared to listen with undivided attention. The Word was with much power. Every sentence seemed to penetrate the hearts of the listening throng. We then formed a procession and sang clown the Whitechapel Road to the Room. We had an efficient band of singers, and as we passed along the spacious and crowded thoroughfare, singing, "we're bound for the land of the pure and the holy," the people ran from every side. From the adjacent gin palaces, the drinkers came forth to hear and see; some in mockery joined our ranks, some laughed and sneered, some were angry, the great majority looked on in wonder, while others turned and accompanied us, as on we went, changing our song to "There is a Fountain filled with blood;" and then again to -

" With a turning from sin, let repentance begin;

Then conversion of course will draw nigh:

But till washed in the blood of a crucified Lord:

We shall never be ready to die.

The hall was filled. The power of the Holy Ghost was with the word. Three-fourths of the audience stayed the after-meeting.

A more interesting and useful work could not be conceived than that of going from seat to seat for conversation. Here was a poor, painted, fallen female, weeping at the remembrance of a praying mother, while sisters kneeling around her offered a pardoning Saviour. There was an intelligent, respectable-looking young man, who had some time back been anxious about his soul, and, as he said, often prayed for mercy, but having failed to obtain any satisfaction, had of late given it up, and ceased attending any place of worship. I tried to show him the simple, easy way of peace by the present acceptance of forgiveness as the free gift of God in Jesus. He said, "I have often tried, sir, but have not succeeded." I said, "Did you ever come to Him as your Saviour, and believe that He did there and then receive and forgive you?" He replied," No; I never did that." "Will you do so now?" I asked. He said, "I will!" And as I passed up and down the meeting, while others were singing and conversing, I marked him bowed, as I trust, before the Lord in the exercise of that faith which brings salvation.

On another form sat an aged man and woman; he never attended a place of worship, and she but seldom, and though both nearly seventy, they were clinging to the idea "that it would take some time for such as they to be saved."

Further on was a group of sailors, evidently interested and impressed, but they had to leave early to go onboard their ship, which sailed on Tuesday. They could not, therefore, come again next Sabbath, but promised to do so on their return to London.

At the door, just about to retire, was a troubled and trembling woman, halting between two opinions, and a brother pleading with her not to go away until she had sought and found Jesus. I took her hand and joined my entreaties to his, when, thoroughly broken down, she yielded, went back, and gave her heart to God.

One aged woman found the Saviour, and before all the people poured forth her heart in thanksgiving and prayer. She was a wanderer from the fold; many years ago she had known the Lord but had deeply fallen. Passing along, she heard our singing, listened to the message of mercy, with tears confessed sins which lay like a mountain on her conscience, especially that of keeping her shop open on the Sabbath, and then joyously embraced the Saviour.

From, 'East London Evangelist', October 1868. Edited by William Booth.


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