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William Booth

By David Smithers


      On April 9,1865, Lee met Grant in the parlor of a private home at Appomattox Court House. He surrendered his army and brought an end to four long years of death and devastation called the Civil War. In the same year a 36 year old Englishman by the name of William Booth declared war on the powers of darkness by founding the Salvation Army.

      One of the most effective weapons in General Booth's arsenal was fervent prayer. It was not unusual for Booth to hold "an all night of prayer" when he came to preach the Word of God. People would flood the altars every where he went. "The power of God was wonderfully manifest in the meetings . . . people were frequently, struck down, overwhelmed with a sense of the presence and power of God."

      The Salvation Army's success at freeing the captives was uncanny, especially when one considers those who it strived to reach. General Booth's battle cry was "Go for souls and go for the worst." The worst of sinners were saved, saloons were closed and entire cities were shaken.

      Booth's success attracted not only supporters but also enemies. Those who served in the Army were pelted with hot coals, sprayed with tar and burning sulphur, beat, stoned and even kicked to death in the streets. The Salvation Army resisted their enemies with a cheerful "God bless you", and a prayer. General Booth, himself was often in the thick of it. When spit on during the Midlands tour, Booth encouraged his fellow soldiers, "Don't rub it off - it's a medal!"

      Night after night Booth would come home bleeding and bruised after being attacked for preaching in the slums of England. After such nights of testing he would take his wife's hand and say, "Kate, let me pray with you." After praying with Catherine he would rise from his knees armed with fresh courage and hope. Booth needed all the valor his wife Catherine could inspire in him. She encouraged him, "if we get tired we had better go and be done with, anything is better than a dead church." Despite the grinding pressures of the ministry the Booths had a happily united family. The General had nine children and loved to play and romp with them, especially in their favorite game of "Fox and Geese."

      Once while traveling, General Booth's car was detained. He took advantage of the opportunity and exhorted some idle factory workers. He said, "some of you men never pray, you gave up praying long ago. But I'm going to say to you, won't you pray for your children, that they may be different?" Within minutes, 700 men knelt in silent prayer.

      At another time, two Salvation Army officers set out to found a new work, only to meet with failure and opposition. Frustrated and tired they appealed to the General to close the rescue mission. General Booth sent back a telegram with two words on it, "TRY TEARS." They followed his advice and they witnessed a mighty revival.

      During the course of William Booths ministry he traveled 5,000,000 miles and preached 60,000 sermons. God help us in this desperate and distracted day in which we live to heed the General's advice. "Work as if everything depended upon your work, and pray as if everything depended upon your prayer."

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