William Booth's first sermon (1846)

The first sermon he ever preached,” she said, '' was in Kid Street. I remember it very well. The Meeting was held in a small cottage. It was at eight o^clock at night, and he had come straight from his work. There was a box placed upside down on the table for a desk, with two candles burning, one each side of the Bible. The door stood open, and poor women came into the tiny parlour, bringing their own chairs with them. In the doorway was a group of men, afraid to come in lest they should be converted, but interested in this new way of preaching religion. They filled up the doorway, a dark little crowd that extended into the street. Will Booth's sermon — ah, how well I remember it! — was very gentle and tender, quite different from anything else I ever heard him say to the people, and so strange for a young man to preach that it almost made some of the women smile. He talked of little children learning to walk. He described how they toddled, and swayed, and came near to falling. He said how difficult a thing it was for little babes to learn the use of their legs, to trust their tiny feet, and to advance with courage. And then he asked if any mother, watching her child's first efforts to walk, would be cross with the infant's failure, would shout at it when it swayed, would sit still, unmoved, when it fell and hurt itself. Then he said that it was just as difficult to live a true Christian life and that we should always be on the look-out for helping people, especially those who were only just beginning to live that life. He said it was wrong to judge them when they failed, and just as wrong to sit idle when they fell. We should run, and lift them up, and help them. Hard words would not help them; sitting still would not help them; we must go and do something to make it less hard for them to walk straight.''

She told me, too, that she heard one of his earliest preachings in the open street. The scene was Red Lion Square, and he was surrounded by a crowd of poor people. '

''That was a very different sermon!” she exclaimed. "He called out in his great voice that all the suffering and sorrow of the world came from sin. I remember how he said, "Friends, I want to put a few straight questions to your souls. Have any of you got a child at home without shoes to its little feet? Are your wives sitting now in dark houses waiting for you to return, without money? Are you going away from here to the public-house to spend on drink money that your wives need for food and your children for shoes?" It was all like that. And then he read out the Wesleyan hymn which has the verse:

Misers ! for you His life He paid;

Your basest crime He bore:

Drunkards ! your sins on Him were laid

That you might sin no more.

I think there had never been such preaching in the open streets before.  

'The Life of General William Booth', by Harold Begbie, Volume 1, page 64-65.

Additional Information

Kid Street no longer exists

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