By. John M.Brentnall
William Booth (1829-1912) is best known as the founder of the Salvation Army, an organization devoted to feeding and clothing the destitute. Beginning as a Christian mission in London’s East End, it was renamed in 1878, and waged war on two fronts – against the biting pinch of poverty, and the degrading power of sin, especially among prostitutes and drunkards. Its inroads into these territories brought jeering mobs, hurled stones, broken windows and vandalized property.
Despite this opposition, Booth pressed on fearlessly with his social programme. His book, In Darkest England – And The Way Out, set the tone for increased concern for the downtrodden and exploited. By the end of his earthly life, Booth had received the freedom of the city of London, an honorary doctorate from Oxford University, and invitations to the coronation of Edward VII and the United States Senate, which he opened with prayer.
We cannot endorse the Army’s military structure, neglect of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and Arminian doctrine. Yet we marvel at a prediction Booth made, as he saw the ‘Down-Grade’ which his fellow-labourer Spurgeon fought so fearlessly to stem. The next century, Booth said, will be marked by the following features:
1. Religion without the Holy Spirit.
2. Christianity without Christ.
3. Forgiveness without Repentance.
4. Salvation without Regeneration.
5. Politics without God.
6. Heaven without Hell.
All these predictions have come to pass, to our immense sorrow and loss. In many places where the pure, full-orbed gospel was not only preached, but also believed and lived out, there is little but frivolous worldliness, total irreverence in the worship of God, and cynical unconcern for the never-dying souls of men.