Candles in the Night—No. 5

Many a needy Dorcas Society in our ranks would grow in strength and usefulness if more of our sisters exemplified Catherine Booth's spirit of devotion and self-sacrifice.

WHEN considering the usefulness of women in the broader fields of humanitarian serv­ice in the world, we observe that the feminine ministry of the Salvation Army fills a large place. Their plan of action is based less on theology than philanthropy, but it has followed the Wesleyan and Arminian doctrinal pattern. Not a full-fledged church endeavor, it has suc­ceeded in reaching the less privileged in soci­ety, and has helped many who, in the disap­pointments of life and struggles for existence, responded to the touch of this organization. It provides applied Christianity.

The Salvation Army developed out of a great need in the middle of the eighteenth century when men had grown weary of war and yet re­mained conscious of its military pattern. The founders of the Salvation Army adopted the language of the world's national defenders. This was sanctified soldiery. It was also some­what revivalistic, and developed along with the Wesleyan awakening. However, the Salvation Army capitalized on Protestant hymnody, and with banners waving and drums beating it added the popular marching stride to supply rallying incentive. True, its music was a far cry from the Established Church's dignified hymns of another tempo, but it reached many the Established Church never would reach.

The Salvationist's power was prayer, and knee drills were to become the order of the day. Its officers and "lassies" were trained by the originators of their movement to pray in the hovels of the poor. It was a common sight to see drunkards and derelicts in gutters and door­ways after a night's debauchery, and the Salvation Army set out to help them. No service was top humble and no case was ever hopeless. Their commander in chief was Jesus Christ.

William and Catherine Booth

Catherine Mumford Booth, wife of William Booth, a minister in the Methodist Connection at the time of their marriage in 1855, is the recognized "Mother of the Salvation Army." Their eight children formed a battalion of Christian soldiers. A humble mission in Lon­don's East End became an induction center. Today more than four thousand have donned the 'Army's" uniform in almost seventy coun­tries. The Army functions in many languages, but adapts its martial tempo to local needs.

Catherine Booth had read her Bible through several times by the time she reached the age of sixteen, and she had a genuine religious experi­ence. Afflicted from childhood with a number of serious infirmities, she hardly spent a day without pain, often arising from a sickbed to meet a duty or to face an enthusiastic crowd who regarded her as one of England's great preachers. Beginning with their honeymoon William and Catherine had been an evangelis­tic team. William, too, was God-directed in his work, and their union doubled in usefulness for organizing, preaching, and singing. Catherine, however, was the main source of courage and creativeness. She was a practical wife and passed on a few of her formulas for domestic tran­quillity:

The first was not to have secrets that affected their mutual relationship or the interest of their family. The next was not to have two separate purses. Another was not to argue in the presence of the children. 1

Catherine's understanding of her responsibil­ity was that a woman was to participate first of all in her husband's ministerial work. She was militant with voice and pen, and William made room for her distinctive contribution. This had its roots in her husband's leaving the Method­ist Connection in 1861 to face the task of an independent gospel worker. It meant an itiner­ant life with no settled home for a growing family. But the Booths had an innate confidence in God and a great vision of the work God had entrusted to them. They were a congenial and powerful team.

While Catherine was an organizer she was not without true feminine traits. In her impro­vised millinery parlor in the whitewashed sta­ble meeting hall, she designed a stunning "Hal­lelujah Bonnet," styled after the Puritan head­gear of the "plain" Quakers. She also designed the Army's uniform, and glamour and appeal were not out of the question with Catherine. Besides keeping her own children in the cause, she attracted youthful zeal into service for Christ and glorified the commonplace. She taught her "lassies" more than the universities of the day provided—that a Christian woman is a servant of the poor, a succorer of the needy, and a comforter in affliction and pain. This in the setting of music, with horns blowing and tambourines tinkling lightened the lot of the toilers of that generation.

Growth of the Salvationists

While these beginnings brought continuous reinforcements as the years progressed, the Booths provided the backbone and the strength of the work of the Salvation Army. And we desire to pay tribute to the ministering spirit of this organization. We are also aware of the branch that became known as the Volunteers of America. It evidently found the original or­ganization a little too cramped for its style, but that, too, is the way some things have to grow.

Adventists and Salvationists

As the Salvation Army has nobly served, it has inspired many other religious groups to co­operate and expand in Christian service within their church groups. Some Seventh-day Advent­ists earlier have been Salvationists. They have wielded a good influence in our own missionary societies. Seventh-day Adventists find their true pattern in Isaiah 58. This inspiring chapter em­braces with humanitarian service a return to the original Sabbath. It is a work of reform and restoration.

We should here mention another worthy example of Catherine Booth as expressed by Edith Deen:

In their self-abnegation, Catherine and William Booth created a monument to the spirit of Christ and against the spirit of Mammon. Like members of the early Christian community at Jerusalem, they never accepted profits for themselves from such things as books, hymns or magazines, but placed them in the treasury for the common good. They not only refused money for themselves but taught their children not to worship wealth. 2

Catherine would suggest enterprises far more profitable than hours spent in making fineries for church bazaars. She guided national leaders and courts to consider rescue homes for stray­ing girls, and she sponsored other noble proj­ects. To those who overstressed the second com­ing of Christ doctrine and neglected humanitar­ian responsibilities, Catherine appealed for bal­anced thinking. She wrote some inspiring and practical books to guide the cause. On the occa­sion of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Sal-vation Army, when 50,000 had gathered, Cath­erine gave her last public message. Her moth­erly appeal was:

Love one another. Help your comrades in dark hours. I am dying under the Army flag; it is yours to live and fight under. God is my salvation and refuge in storm. 3

Many a needy Dorcas Society in our ranks would grow in strength and usefulness if more of our sisters exemplified Catherine Booth's spirit of devotion and self-sacrifice. Our mes­sage has been dignified by women of equal forti­tude and creativeness, but there is great need in earth's closing hours to put first things first in our lives. More candles must be lighted in the gloom and darkness of ignorance and despair. How brightly is your candle burning, my Adventist sister?

REFERENCES

1 Edith Deen, Great Women of the Christian Faith (New York: Harper and Brothers), pp. 238, 239. Used by permis­sion.

2--------Ibid., p. 243.

3---------Ibid., p. 244.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Booth-Tucker, Frederick. Memoirs of Catherine Booth. 2 vols.

Westwood, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Co. Wilson, P. W. General Evangeline Booth. New York: Chas. Scribner's Sons.

 

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January 1962

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