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- Catherine Booth - 10/16 -
'What the Lord wants is, that you shall go about the business to which He sets you, not asking for an easy post, nor grumbling at a hard one.'-- MRS. BOOTH.
If she had not been a worker, our Army Mother would have done little with her life. The wonderful call which came to her, her great gifts, the zeal and love which filled her heart, would all have been useless had she not been willing to work, and to work hard, and to work every day.
Stop and think about this. No life accomplishes anything unless it is full of hard work--often work accompanied by much drudgery, whether it is the life of a king or of a poor man. Mrs. Booth has set us all an example in this, for she would work ceaselessly with head or hands or heart, as long as ever her health allowed her to do so. Laziness and idleness of all kinds she detested; nor could she tolerate a lazy person in her service.
She worked first of all in her home. When she spent a morning in her kitchen, the work there was perfectly done. The dinner was ready at the right time, properly cooked, good and wholesome. She allowed no waste and no extravagance. Her bread was light and beautifully baked, and when she had finished her morning's work her kitchen was as neat as when she began. She finished everything, and put it straight as she went along.
It was the same with the children. She was alike nurse and doctor, dressmaker and tailor; she made and mended, washed and ironed for her boys and girls during their early years, and herself attended to every smallest detail of their lives. Strangers who asked where Mrs. Booth bought her children's things, so that they could go to the same shop, could scarcely believe the reply: 'Mamma makes all our clothes herself' --so beautifully were they cut and finished.
And when the little garments were of no further service to her, she would alter and mend them once again, and give them away. Her baby-clothes, when the last daughter had outgrown them, were given to a member of the Mission for his child.
He will never forget taking the little bundle home to his wife and turning over the tiny things. 'I had often heard Mrs. Booth preach,' he said, 'but those baby-clothes preached a louder sermon to me and my wife than ever her words had done. They were all darned and mended and patched, and the work--but, there, I never saw such stitches! And as we looked, and knew the hours of toil she must have put into them, rather than throw them away, as many another would have done--well, I tell you I listened to her next sermon as I had never listened before.'
And this same diligent, tireless spirit was with her to the last. When on her deathbed, able only to use her left hand, and propped up by pillows, she devised a little frame on which, painfully, stitch by stitch, she could work a last token of love for The General.
When her hands were folded still in death, I saw those slippers. They were beautifully embroidered, one with the words, 'He will keep the feet of His Saints'; and the other with the sure and certain hope which lay beyond the parting, 'Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem' --a fitting and sacred service with which to close her many years of toil and labour for others.
But our Army Mother had another way of working in her home--that is, she worked over others. If a girl wished to learn, Mrs. Booth would take endless trouble in showing her the best way to wash or iron, or clean a grate, or do whatever the work on hand might be. She instructed her servants, explaining to them the reason for doing their duties in a certain way, teaching them forethought and common sense, and dealing faithfully with them over all their failures.
'Better,' she said, in one of her addresses--and she lived it out in her own home--'better take a girl whom you have to teach how to wash a child's face, or to stitch a button on, if she is true and sincere, than have one ever so clever, who will teach your children to lie and deceive.'
She worked, too, over the cases of need and poverty which were often at her door. Not content, like so many, with giving a few coppers to a beggar, or some broken food, she would inquire into the _cause_ of the distress; and then, if the need seemed genuine, she would help, either by getting the father work, or by having the home visited and suitable relief given after the true condition of things had been found out.
And this was only a little of the homework with which her hands were ever full. Of her ceaseless care over her children's mind and soul training I have told you elsewhere. But of her public work perhaps the most exhausting was that which resulted from her Meetings. For she could not rest content with the most careful preparation beforehand, nor with pouring out her whole soul upon the people during the forty or fifty minutes that her address lasted. At the close of the Meeting, whenever her health allowed it, she would labour and toil, often for two hours and more, dealing herself with the penitents, meeting their difficulties, one by one, and was unwilling to leave them until, as far as possible, all had claimed and received the blessing they sought.
The next day, too, she would follow up any special case with a long personal letter from her own pen, or she would arrange another interview, or in some way keep in close, actual touch with the struggling soul, until the step of obedience had been taken, and he or she was fairly started on the Narrow Way.
And it was this careful, earnest, patient after-work which gave such glorious harvests to her soul-saving campaigns. Labour and trouble were a joy to her, if she could but help one sincere, seeking soul into the light.
But remember this: while she so toiled over all who came to her for advice and guidance, she never repeated nor passed on to others their confidences. If she had done so, people would soon have left off corning to her; they would have said, 'We cannot trust her.' She was, as you know, a mighty speaker; but about other people's affairs she was entirely silent--as you must learn to be if you wish to be of any service to God or man.
And Mrs. Booth strove constantly to teach all who were around her to work as she did. 'You have begun well enough--now carry it through,' she would say again and again to her children, and whether it was a doll's frock, or an article for 'The War Cry,' or a series of Meetings, it was always the same. Unfinished, half-done work she detested with all her soul. 'If a thing is worth beginning at all, then it is worth finishing,' she would say; and this great principle followed her through her life in small things as in great.
This was the reason that, on her deathbed, she could say, turning to the Chief of the Staff, 'I have no vain regrets about the past. As far as my strength allowed, I have finished the work I had to do as I went along; and now I leave it, all imperfect as it has been, in His hands.'
Perhaps, by nature, you are not a worker. But what you are not by nature, you can become by grace. God can teach you to love work. And as you work, you will, like our dear Army Mother, learn better and better how to work; and your life, whenever God calls you to lay it down, shall be like hers, not unfinished, but complete.
'I see more than ever that the religion which is pleasing to God consists in doing and enduring His will, rather than in good sentiments and feelings. The Lord help us to endure as seeing Him who is invisible.'-- MRS. BOOTH.
When our first General stood on that October evening by the grave of his beloved wife, and spoke to us with a breaking heart of our Army Mother, he unfolded to us the three great qualities which made her character so beautiful. First, and foremost, she was good; secondly, she was love; and, thirdly, she was a Warrior. Let us, following The General's outline, look at these three leading qualities in her life. 'First,' he said, 'she was _good_. She was washed in the Blood of the Lamb. To the last moment her cry was "a sinner saved by grace." She was a thorough hater of shams, hypocrisies, and make-believes. Her goodness was of a practical sort. "By their fruits ye shall know them" was a text she often quoted, and one by which she was always willing to be judged.'
It is of this 'goodness of a practical sort' that I want first to tell you, before we consider that soul goodness which made her life so holy.
Mrs. Booth could not imagine any goodness apart from industry. As we have already seen, she considered it a sin to waste precious time. Any one who was lazy she could not endure, and when one such offered for the work she wrote of him:--
'I do hope you will not throw a lot of money away in trying H------, just for want of courage to tell him at once that he will not do, because I am sure that it will be thrown away. It is the _nature_ of the man that is at fault, and not his _circumstances_. He is a _drone_, and nothing, no change of place or position, can ever make him into a bee. He never ought to have left his trade; he never _would_ have done so if he had thought soul-saving was harder work!'
Extravagance and waste of every kind she abhorred, and had she not been so careful in planning and arranging, her time and money would again and again have run short. The sewing, mending, and housekeeping needed for a family of little children when means are scarce would have been burden enough for most mothers. But besides this came her own letter-writing, preparing for her Meetings, and also the hours she spent consulting and advising The General, whose voice, 'Here, Kate,' would call her from the nursery or kitchen to help him decide some important question.
Again, it was impossible to talk to Mrs. Booth, even for five minutes, without finding how true and sincere she was. To please no one would she keep back the truth, or appear different from her real self.
'I believe,' she writes, when quite a young woman, 'honesty to be the best policy, and I shall act upon it. Let me have truth, if it shakes the foundation of the earth.'
She was sincere and faithful in every part of her nature: faithful with her own soul and in dealing with the souls of others. Great or small, rich or poor, she made no difference, and never held back from reproving sin when it was needful.
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