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- Catherine Booth - 6/16 -
God's glory and the Salvation of souls; and we all know to-day how, from that little Whitechapel beginning, grew the Christian Mission, and how, at last, the Christian Mission became The Salvation Army.
Do not think, however, that our dear Army Mother's consecration stopped here! No, indeed. One by one, as they became old enough, she gave up her children to the Work, and we shall never know all we owe as an Army to her beautiful spirit of devotion and sacrifice.
Let us stand together by her open grave in the autumn twilight. Her twenty-six years of fight and toil in The Salvation Army are over now, her spirit has been summoned Home. Listen. The Army Founder himself is the speaker. He is recalling the forty years which he and our dear Army Mother had trod together, and his words sum up better than any other words could do what she was to our Leader:--
'If you had had a tree,' he said, speaking to the vast crowd that stood round the grave, 'that had grown up in your garden, under your window, which for forty years had been your shadow from the burning sun, whose flowers had been the adornment and beauty of your life, whose fruit had been almost the stay of your existence, and the gardener had come along and swung his glittering axe and cut it down before your eyes, I think you would feel as though you had a blank--it might not be a big one--but a little blank in your life.
'If you had had a servant who for all this long time had served you without fee or reward, who had administered, for very love, to your health and comfort, and who suddenly passed away, you would miss that servant.
'If you had had a counsellor who, in hours--continually occurring--of perplexity and amazement, had ever advised you, and seldom advised wrong; whose advice you had followed, and seldom had reason to regret it; and the counsellor, while you were in the same intricate mazes of your existence, had passed away, you would miss that counsellor.
'If you had had a friend who had understood your very nature, the rise and fall of your feelings, the bent of your thoughts, and the purpose of your existence; a friend whose communion had ever been pleasant--the most pleasant of all other friends--to whom you had ever turned with satisfaction, and your friend had been taken away, you would feel some sorrow at the loss.
'If you had had a mother for your children who had cradled and nursed and trained them for the service of the living God, in which you most delighted--a mother, indeed, who had never ceased to bear their sorrows on her heart, and who had been ever willing to pour forth that heart's blood in order to nourish them, and that darling mother had been taken from your side, you would feel it a sorrow.
'If you had had a wife, a sweet love of a wife, who for forty years had never given you real cause for grief; a wife who had stood with you, side by side, in the battle's front, who had been a comrade to you, ever willing to interpose herself between you and the enemy, and ever the strongest when the battle was fiercest, and your beloved one had fallen before your eyes, I am sure there would be some excuse for your sorrow.
'Well, my comrades, you can roll all these qualities into one personality, and what would be lost in all I have lost in one. There has been taken away from me the light of my eyes, the inspiration of my soul, and we are about to lay all that remains of her in the grave. I have been looking right at the bottom of it here, and calculating how soon they may bring and lay me alongside of her, and my cry to God has been that every remaining hour of my life may make me readier to come and join her in death, to go and embrace her in life in the Eternal City.'
'I will never speak to sinners so that one man or woman in my audience can stand up and say, "You might have warned me more faithfully, spoken more plainly than you did." I would rather die than that should be the case.'--MRS. BOOTH.
No one must think that Mrs. Booth became a great speaker all in a moment, or by any 'royal road.' She started when about eighteen, as many a Corps Cadet has since done, by just taking a class or Company on Sundays, never dreaming of doing more. An elder girls' Company was given to her; and she had fifteen girls to teach, whose ages varied from twelve to nineteen.
Two half-days she spent every week in preparing for her Company, and in trying to make each lesson end in a practical way, so as to do them real good.
Then on Sunday, when the rest of the children had been dismissed, Miss Mumford would beg to be given the key of the room and would remain behind, holding a little Prayer Meeting with her girls. Sometimes they would stay on for an hour and a half, and many by this means became truly converted.
Often with so much praying and singing Catherine quite lost her voice before the end of the Meeting; but, so long as souls were saved, she did not mind that.
Soon after her marriage Mrs. Booth took another class of this same kind, and also a little sort of Sergeants' Meeting, and then--for you see our Army Mother was led on, just as you or I may be, step by step--she gave a short talk to the Band of Hope children (something like our Band of Love of today) on the evils of drink.
'Oh, how I wish,' she wrote to her father, 'that I had started speaking years ago!'
A little later on Mr. and Mrs. Booth moved to Gateshead, and there the people were very much surprised to hear their minister's wife pray aloud when her husband had done speaking; for in those days very few women thought of praying, much less of speaking, in public.
'Since you can pray so beautifully, will you come and talk to us on our special Prayer-Meeting night?' some of the people asked. But Mrs. Booth was horrified.
'Of course, I said "No,"' she wrote. 'I don't know what they can be thinking of.'
Just at this time an argument began in one of the newspapers as to whether women had the right to speak for God or not. Mrs. Booth wrote an answer to this question you can read it for yourself in her book, 'Practical Religion'--and she showed from God's Word, that women have the same right to help to get people saved that the men have. The little pamphlet was already printed and being widely read, and our Army Mother lay alone in her room very ill, when the thought flashed into her soul, 'You have been helping other women to preach and to speak for God. What about yourself?'
'Oh, no, Lord, not me; I can't. I am, as Thou knowest, the most timid and bashful disciple ever saved by grace.' That was her answer.
Then the Lord took her back to the days when she first gave herself to Him, at the age of fifteen. He showed her that all the way along this one thing had hindered and stopped her from 'being the blessing or from getting the blessing He intended.'
'Lord,' she cried, 'if Thou wilt come back to me as in the old days, I will obey, though I die in the attempt.'
But at the moment God seemed not to answer her cry, and when she was well again all went on as before.
Three months later Mrs. Booth was quietly sitting one Sunday morning in chapel with her eldest boy, when a very wonderful thing happened. You shall read about it in her own words:--
'I felt much depressed in mind,' she says, 'and was not expecting anything particular, but as the testimonies proceeded I felt the Holy Spirit come upon me. It seemed as if a voice said to me: "Now, if you were to go and testify, you know I would bless it to your own soul as well as to the people!" I gasped again, and said in my heart: "Yes, Lord, I believe Thou wouldst, but I cannot do it!" I had forgotten my vow.
'A moment afterwards there flashed across my mind the memory of the time when I had promised the Lord that I would obey Him at all costs. And then the voice seemed to ask me if this was consistent with that promise. I almost jumped up and said, "No, Lord, it is the old thing over again. But I cannot do it!" I felt as though I would sooner die than speak. And then the Devil said, "Besides, you are not prepared. You will look like a fool, and will have nothing to say." He made a mistake. He overreached himself for once. It was this word that settled it. "Ah!" I said, "this is just the point. I have never yet been willing to be a fool for Christ. Now I will be one!"
'Without stopping another moment, I rose up from my seat and walked down the aisle. My dear husband thought something had happened to me, and so did the people. We had been there two years, and they knew my timid, bashful nature. He stepped down, and asked me, "What is the matter, my dear?" I replied, "I want to say a word!" He was so taken by surprise that he could only say, "My dear wife wishes to speak!" and sat down. For years he had been trying to persuade me to do it. Only that very week he had wanted me to go and address a little Cottage Meeting of some twenty working people, but I had refused.
'I stood--God only knows how--and if any mortal ever did hang on the arm of Omnipotence, I did. I just stood and told the people how it had come about. I confessed, as I think everybody should who has been in the wrong and has misrepresented the religion of Jesus Christ. I said, "I dare say many of you have been looking upon me as a very devoted woman, and one who has been living faithfully to God. But I have come to realize that I have been disobeying Him, and thus brought darkness and leanness into my soul. I have promised the Lord to do so no longer, and have come to tell you that henceforth I will be obedient to the holy vision."
'There was more weeping, they said, in the chapel that day than on any previous occasion. Many dated a renewal in righteousness from that very moment, and began a life of devotion and consecration to God.
'Now I might have "talked good" to them till now. That honest confession did what twenty years of preaching could not have accomplished.'
After this wonderful victory Mrs. Booth never again drew back. The same night she spoke once more, with even greater power than in the morning, and before long invitations came pouring in from all parts, for wherever she went souls were saved and people sanctified.
But it cost her a great deal to preach like this. She writes of one
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