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‘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.

‘I see more than ever,’ she said, ‘the need of making righteous people true in their _inward parts_. Let us be more thorough than ever with souls under conviction. Let us not be afraid to wound too deeply. Thousands of professors have never been truly convinced of sin, much less truly converted. Sin to them is _being found out_!’

Though all through her life our Army Mother hungered and thirsted to know God better, and to serve Him more perfectly, yet it was not till some time after her marriage that she received the blessing of a clean heart.

Of the struggle and conflict which she went through, before the blessing of Holiness became hers, she shall tell you in her own words:–

‘I had been earnestly seeking all the week to know Jesus as an all- sufficient Saviour dwelling in my heart, and thus cleansing it every moment of all sin; but on Thursday and Friday I laid aside almost everything else, and spent the chief part of the day in reading and prayer, and trying to believe for it. On Thursday afternoon at tea-time I was well-nigh discouraged, and felt my old visitant, irritability, and the Devil told me I should never get it, and so I might as well give it up at once. However, I know him of old as a liar and the father of lies, and pressed on, cast down, yet not destroyed.

‘On Friday morning God gave me two precious passages. First, “Come unto Me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Oh, how sweet it sounded to my poor, weary, sin-stricken soul! I almost dared to believe that He did give me rest from inbred sin–the rest of perfect Holiness. But I staggered at the promise through unbelief, and therefore failed to enter in. The second passage consisted of those thrice-blessed words, “Of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who is made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.” But again unbelief hindered me, although I felt as if getting gradually nearer.

‘I struggled through the day until a little after six in the evening, when William joined me in prayer. We had a blessed season. While he was saying, “Lord, we open our hearts to receive Thee,” that word was spoken to my soul, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If any man hear My voice, and open unto Me, I will come in, and sup with him.” I felt sure He had long been knocking, and Oh, how I yearned to receive Him as a perfect Saviour! But Oh, the inveterate habit of unbelief! How wonderful that God should have borne so long with me! When we got up from our knees, I lay on the sofa, exhausted with the excitement and effort of the day. William said, “Don’t you lay all on the altar?” I replied, “I am sure I do!” Then he said, “And isn’t the altar holy?” I replied in the language of the Holy Ghost, “The altar is most holy, and whatsoever toucheth it is holy.” Then, said he, “Are you not holy?” I replied with my heart full of emotion and with some faith, “Oh, I think I am!” Immediately the word was given me to confirm my faith. “Now are ye clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.” And I took hold–true, with a trembling hand, and not unmolested by the tempter, but I held fast the beginning of my confidence, and it grew stronger, and from that moment I have dared to reckon myself dead indeed unto sin, and alive unto God through Jesus Christ my Lord.

‘I did not feel much rapturous joy, but perfect peace, the sweet rest which Jesus promised to the heavy laden. I have understood the Apostle’s meaning when he says, “We who believe do enter into rest.” This is just descriptive of my state at present. Not that I am not tempted, but I am allowed to know the Devil when he approaches me, and I look to my Deliverer Jesus, and He still gives me rest. Two or three very trying things occurred on Saturday, which at another time would have excited impatience, but I was kept by the power of God through faith unto full Salvation.

‘And now what shall I say? “Unto Him who has washed me in His own Blood be glory and dominion for ever and ever,” and all within me says “Amen!” Oh! I cannot describe, I have no words to set forth the sense I have of my own utter unworthiness. Satan has met me frequently with my peculiarly aggravated sins, and I have admitted it all. But then I have said, the Lord has not made my sanctification to depend in any measure on my own worthiness or unworthiness, but on the worthiness of my Saviour. He came to seek and to save “that which was lost.” “Where sin hath abounded, grace doth much more abound”‘

How wonderfully in after years Mrs. Booth explained and led others into this same blessing, we know. Was not, then, the long struggle and agony on her own behalf worth it? Yes, indeed, and it will be so with you when you get this glorious blessing in your soul.

You will have noticed how in struggling for Holiness Mrs. Booth had to fight unbelief. This determination to trust God fully marked her out as strong in faith.

She had this marvellous faith because she obeyed and struggled to throw herself on the Lord; but faith was not _natural_ to her any more than it is to you or me.

Often money was short, and she hardly knew how she would be able to feed and clothe her family: this was a sore trial of her faith. On one such occasion she wrote to her mother:–

‘We have not at present received as much as our travelling expenses and house rent. I feel a good deal perplexed, and am sometimes tempted to mistrust the Lord. But I will not allow it. Our Father knows!’

Later on we get a sight of her own experience in one of her letters, when she said:–

‘I am much tried just now by perplexities of every kind; uncertainty, from a human standpoint, hedges me in on every side. Satan says it is useless trying to steer straight through such a labyrinth; but I am determined to hold on to the promises, come what will. My God is the living God. He sees me, knows me, loves me, cares for me, wants to have me with Him in Glory, as much as He did Abraham, or Paul, or John. If this be true, what have I to fear?’

And again:–

‘”Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldst believe, thou shouldst see the Salvation of God?” This is a precious word. It has kept my soul alive many a time when Satan has almost overthrown me. “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to thee. Never mind whether anybody else can or cannot. If others are too strong to let Me carry them, if thou art weak enough to throw up all self-effort, and trust Me with thy whole weight, I will carry thee, and thou shalt glorify Me.” I know this is the way. Hence the babes go in with the simple and the great sinners, while the reasoners, and the strong, and the proud, and the fearful are shut out.’

Again, to one who was cast down, and tempted to be discouraged because of his failings, she writes:–

‘It is well to see them, for how can we take hold of Jesus to mend what we don’t see? It is best to know ourselves, but we Salvationists are in danger of erring on the other side. We look too much at ourselves apart from Him who is or would be our righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. Faith in Him as your keeper will do more in five minutes than years of conflict without it.’

Once, in another letter, she gives us a beautiful bit of her own soul’s experience on this subject:–

‘I had such a view of His love and faithfulness on the journey from Wellingborough, that I thought I would never doubt again about anything. I had the carriage to myself, and such a precious season with the Lord, that the time seemed to fly. As the lightning gleamed around I felt ready to shout, “The chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof.” Oh, how precious it is when we see as well as believe, but yet more blessed to believe and not see! Lord, work this determined, obstinate, blind, unquestioning, unanswering faith in me and my beloved friend, and let us two dare to trust Thee in the midst of our peculiar trials. As I looked at the waving fields, and grazing sheep, the flashing sky, a Voice said in my soul, “Of what oughtest thou to be afraid? Am I not God? Cannot I supply thy little, tiny needs?” My heart replied, “It is enough, Lord; I will trust Thee, forgive my unbelief.”‘

IX

LOVE

The truest love must ever seek the highest good of its object; sometimes even with forgetfulness of important smaller advantages.’–MRS. BOOTH.

The second great quality in Mrs. Booth’s character, as given by the first General, was her love.

‘She was _love_,’ he says. ‘Her whole soul was full of tender, deep compassion. Oh, how she loved, how she pitied the suffering poor! How she longed to put her arms round the sorrowful, and help them!’

‘How,’ asked Mrs. Booth once, ‘are we to put heart into people? Even grace seems to fail to do so in many instances. I think it needs mothers to do this from infancy upwards.’

You will recollect that Mrs. Mumford fostered this ‘heart’ and love in her little girl; and you will remember how keenly Katie felt, blazing up into wrath at any story of wrong or injury, and ready to sacrifice her life for those she loved. This spirit grew with her. She could not help caring and struggling to help all who needed her. The General often told her in later years that she was killing herself by carrying every one’s burdens. Then she would try to leave off for a little, but her heart was too strong, and she could not hold it back.

When but a child, running down the road with her hoop and stick, she saw a drunkard being dragged off to prison by a policeman. All the people were jeering and mocking at the poor friendless wretch. Instantly Katie’s pity and love fired up. She dashed across the street, and marched along close by the man’s side, so that he might feel that at least one little heart cared for him, and wanted to help him.

To the end of her life she carried this deep, tender pity wherever she went. She loved the poor. ‘With all their faults,’ she said, ‘they have larger hearts than the rich’; and she loved them for it.

Where any one had a warm heart, she could forgive and overlook many mistakes; but with cold, narrow, ‘fishy’ souls, she had neither sympathy nor patience.

Our Army Mother’s help was practical. She did not only give money or pity, but she–so to speak–rolled up her sleeves and helped the suffering herself.

Every sort of suffering and need appealed to her. If an animal was wounded or in pain, she stopped, and herself relieved it as best she could; and to the last, if she saw a horse or any creature being ill- treated, she would not hesitate to rush out and stop the driver, or in some way force him to leave off his cruelty.

She was not only kind and helpful to those she liked, but every living thing that suffered had a claim upon her, and the greater the need the more tender and ready was her help.

Mrs. Booth was a people’s woman, and she was never weary of scheming and planning how to help the poor in the most practical way.

‘When I see people going wrong,’ she said, when but a girl of twelve, ‘I must tell the poor things how to manage.’

Dirt and sin, and drink and misery, could not quench this love; it was a part of her very nature. Long, long before Slum Sisters were ever thought of, Mrs. Booth did their work herself, just because she so loved the poor, and longed to help them. You shall read the story in her own words:–

‘I remember in one case finding a poor woman lying on a heap of rags. She had just given birth to twins, and there was nobody of any sort to wait upon her. I can never forget the desolation of that room. By her side was a crust of bread and a small lump of lard. “I fancied a bit o’ bootter (butter),” the woman remarked apologetically, noticing my eye fall upon the scanty meal, “and my mon, he’d do owt for me he could, bless’m–he couldna git me iny bootter, so he fitcht me this bit o’ lard. Have _you_ iver tried lard isted o’ bootter? It’s _rare good_!” said the poor creature, making me wish I had taken lard for “bootter” all my life, that I might have been the better able to minister to her needs. However, I was soon busy trying to make her a little more comfortable. The babies I washed in a broken pie-dish, the nearest approach to a tub that I could find. And the gratitude of those large eyes, that gazed upon me from out of that wan and shrunken face, can never fade from my memory.’

Before public Meetings took up so much of her time, she delighted in this house-to-house visiting, and went especially for the drunkards, over whom God gave her a wonderful power.

‘I used to visit in the evenings,’ she says, ‘because it was the only part of the day in which I could get away; and, besides, I should not have found the men at home at any other time. I used to ask one drunkard’s wife where another lived. They always knew. After getting hold of eight or ten in this way, and getting them to sign the pledge, I used to arrange Cottage Meetings for them, and try to get them saved. They used to let me talk to them in homes where there was not a stick of furniture, and nothing to sit down upon.’

In this way our Army Mother sought and cared for the drunkards long before Drunkards’ Brigades were dreamt of.

When, at a later time in her life, she first heard of the wicked and cruel way in which young girls are trapped and drawn into sin, Mrs. Booth’s soul was filled with a whirlwind of holy indignation.

‘I feel as though I could not rest, but as though I must go and ferret out these monsters myself,’ she wrote. ‘Almost everybody, notwithstanding the indignation, seems so content with talking. Nobody appears willing to take the responsibility of doing or risking anything. Oh, what a state the world has got into!’

But, deep and practical as was her love in earthly things, her passion for lifting and leading souls into Salvation and Holiness was a thousand times more intense. ‘If we only realized, as we ought, the value of souls, we should not live long under it,’ she said; and she herself realized it fully enough to make her fight on ceaselessly in spite of intense weakness. ‘If it were not for eternity,’ she often sighed, ‘I should soon give up this life.’

It was love for souls which made her go from town to town, care-worn, weary, often quite unfit to meet the immense congregations which came to hear her.

It was love for souls which kept her sitting for hours at her writing- table, when she should have been resting, trying to help those who turned to her for counsel and direction from every part of the globe.

It was love for souls which gave her many a sleepless night, and chained her to her knees, weeping and pleading, agonizing with God on behalf of the people she was to face the next day.

And this love for souls grew even stronger as death came near. ‘Eva,’ she exclaimed to one of her daughters, as she lay racked with agonizing pain, ‘don’t you forget that man with the handcuffs on. Find him. Go to Lancaster Jail; let somebody go with you, and find that man. Tell him that your mother, when she was dying, prayed for him, and that she had a feeling in her heart that God would save him; and tell him, hard as the ten years of imprisonment may be, it will be easier with Christ than it would be without Him.’

She was lying between earth and Heaven, thinking of the joy and peace awaiting her, when it seemed as if she saw the dark face of a heathen woman, and heard the cry, ‘Won’t you help us?’ The old love for perishing souls woke again directly, and she cried, ‘Oh, yes, Lord, I will go anywhere to help poor struggling people. I would go on an errand to Hell, if the Lord would promise me that the Devil should not keep me there.’

In one of these last days she sent a dying message to the Officers. ‘Tell them,’ she said, ‘that the only consolation for a Salvationist on his death-bed is to have been a soul-winner. After all my labours I feel I have come far short of the prize of my high calling. Beseech them to redeem their time, for we can do but little at the best.’

A little maid who was a Candidate came into Mrs. Booth’s sick-room once as she was speaking, and she called her to her bedside, giving her warning and counsel which every Corps Cadet can take as though spoken to herself:–

‘You will be finished with the dishes soon,’ she said, ‘and you are going to be a Cadet. I have been very pleased with you while you have been here, because you have worked out of sight with a good will, and I think you will make a brave Officer. You will promise me, will you?’ she said, as she laid her trembling hand on the girl’s head. ‘Yes,’ was the reply, ‘I will,’ amid stifled sobs.

‘Give me a kiss, then,’ said Mrs. Booth. ‘Promise me that you will never get spoiled by any unfaithful Officer. If you ever get mixed up with such, do not hide it from Headquarters, but let them know about it, and they will soon move the false away from you. I shan’t be here; but, Oh! may God help them to get rid of the wrong. Discernment of spirits! Oh, why should we not have that gift back? It is very necessary.’

Mrs. Booth’s whole heart was wrapped up in the spread of The Army, and she was never more of a warrior than when fighting its battles. And The Army needed some one to stand up for it in those days. We who live to-day can hardly fancy the fierce, bitter persecution the early-day Salvationists had to fight through.

Now, even those who dislike and despise us are forced to admit that ‘The Army does a great deal of good’; but then it was different, and again and again, both by speech and writing, Mrs. Booth had to defend and stand up for our methods.

‘I would not,’ she says, after she had spoken too plainly for some rich people who were offended at her words, ‘sit down and listen to their abuse of The Salvation Army for all their money. But I did not say a word that I would object to have published upon the housetops. Such, however, is often the spirit of the rich. They think that one must sit and hear whatever they may choose to say, and hold one’s breath, because of their money! But, no, I will never be dumb before a golden idol!’

She loved the Uniform: she herself planned that worn by Army women, and always wore her own, rejoicing to be able to give to our people a way of escape from the fashions and extravagances of the world.

She loved the Flag, and was true to its beautiful meaning. She loved to present Colours to the newly-opened Corps, or to parties of Officers going abroad; and when, shortly before she passed away, she changed her room, she begged that the dear Army Flag might be brought in and hung above her bed.

‘There,’ said The General, ‘the Colours are over you now, my darling.’

And she clasped them fondly with her left hand, and traced the motto– ‘Blood and Fire.’

‘Yes,’ she said, ‘Blood and Fire; that is just what my life has been–a constant and severe fight.’

‘It ought to be “Blood and Fire and Victory,”‘ said The General.

‘I’ll fight on till I get it,’ she answered. ‘I won’t give in. Next time I see them I shall be above the pain and sorrow for ever.’

But, though at the last she longed to be at rest, it was not easy for her great mother’s heart to unloose itself from those she loved, and from the thousands in all lands who looked to her as to a mother.

If you have learnt to love very deeply you will also have to suffer, and her very love made the parting so difficult.

‘Oh,’ she exclaimed, when speaking of leaving The General and her children, ‘mine is such a heart! it seems as if it had got roots all round the world clutching on to one and another, and that it will not let them go! And yet You can take care of them, Lord, better than I could. I do, I do believe! O Eternal Father, Shepherd of the sheep, do Thou look after my little flock!’

‘Amen,’ we who read these lines may say; adding to her prayer, ‘And give us that same heart and love which made her life of such mighty power.’

X

THE WARRIOR

‘Fighting is hard work, whatever sort of fighting it is. You cannot fight without wounds of body, heart, or soul.’–MRS. BOOTH.

‘Lastly,’ said The General in that same beautiful tribute to our Army Mother that I have already quoted from,’ she was a _warrior_. She liked the fight. She was not one who said to others, “Go,” but “Here, let _me_ go”; and when there was the necessity she said, “I _will_ go!” I never knew her flinch until her poor body compelled her to lie on one side.’

Our Army Mother was, indeed, before all things a warrior; she fought bravely and unceasingly her whole life through.

In thought and purpose she was independent, and dared to stand out for what she felt right. Cowardice, in her opinion, was one of the commonest and most subtle sins of the day, and she had no patience with those who dared not say ‘No,’ and feared to stand alone.

She thought for herself, and though always eager to hear and learn as much as possible from others, yet she was not carried away by their opinions, but carefully weighed and considered their arguments, and then formed her own judgments.

Mrs. Booth strove earnestly for doctrine.

‘Let us take care,’ she said, in The Army’s early days, ‘what Gospel we preach. Let us mind our doctrine.’

And again:–

‘We must stick to the form of sound words, for there is more in it than appears on the surface. “Glory be to the Father, to the Son, and the Holy Ghost,” was the theology of our forefathers, and I am suspicious of all attempts to mend it.’

And once more:–

‘Let us beware of wrong doctrine, come through whomsoever it may. Holy men make sad mistakes. “Well, but,” say some, “is not a person who holds wrong views with a right heart better than a person with right views and a wrong heart?” Yes, so far as his personal state before God is concerned, but not in his influence on man. My charity must extend to those likely to be deceived or ruined by his doctrines as well as to him.’

Mrs. Booth’s whole life was a continual fight against sin–sin of all kinds. Whether her Meeting was held for the very lowest and roughest, or whether rows of clergy and lawyers, and lords and ladies sat to listen, it made no difference to her. She attacked sin, and went straight at the very heart-sins of the people in front of her.

‘We need great grace,’ she says in the midst of her wonderful West-End campaign, where even princes and princesses came to hear her. ‘I think the Lord never enabled me to be more plain and faithful. As a lady in high circles said to me, “We never heard this sort of Gospel before.” No, poor things, they are sadly deceived.’

Drink, too, was another evil which Mrs. Booth fought against during the whole of her life. She began, as you remember, when a girl by being secretary of the ‘Band of Love’ of those days.

In the early days of their engagement The General was strongly advised to take a little wine for the sake of his health. Our Army Mother wrote him a long letter, showing him how false and foolish such advice was, and ending with:–

‘I have had it recommended to me scores of times, but I am fully and for ever settled on the physical side of the question. [Footnote: That means taking it for the sake of health.–ED.]

‘It is a subject on which I am most anxious you should be thorough. I have far more hope for your health _because_ you abstain, than I should if you took wine. Flee the detestable thing as you would a serpent; be a teetotaller in principle and practice.’

Though, as we have seen, full of boundless faith and pity for the drunkard, Mrs. Booth attacked the makers and sellers of drink unmercifully. She says, on one occasion:–

‘By your peace of conscience on a dying bed; by the eternal destinies of your children, by your care for never-dying souls; by the love you owe your Saviour, I beseech you _banish the drink_.

‘Tell me no more of charity towards brewers, distillers, and publicans. Your false charity to these has already consigned millions to an untimely Hell!… Arise, Christians, arise, and fight this foe! You and you alone are able, for your God will fight for you!’

Another thing for which our Army Mother fought, and which to-day we owe in great measure to her efforts, is the position to which women have been lifted as speakers and teachers in God’s work. She first, as we have seen, opened the way herself; and then she left it open, encouraging and helping tens of thousands of simple, holy women all round the world to follow in her steps.

She had a tough battle to wage. All classes wrote and spoke against women being allowed to stand and speak for God in the open air or in public halls; but, strong in faith and courage, convinced that she had Divine authority for what she did, our Army Mother fought on, arguing, writing, preaching on the matter. Now to-day there is scarcely a land where The Army bonnet is not known and loved, nor where Army women cannot gain a crowd of respectful listeners.

Now I am going to show you some of the hindrances in spite of which our Army Mother fought on.

The first of these hindrances was the burden which God allowed Mrs. Booth to carry all through her life–a weak and suffering body. She said, when her life was drawing to its close, that suffering seemed to have been her special lot, and that she could scarcely remember a day in her life when she had been wholly free from pain.

‘I don’t care about my body,’ she exclaimed when lying in her last illness. ‘It has been a poor old troublesome affair. I shall be glad for it to be sealed up. It is time it was. Oh, I have dragged it wearily about.’

Most women suffering as she did, with a weak spine, heart disease, and over-strained nerves, would have lived the life of an invalid. But the warrior spirit within forced her body along. Scores of times she has gone from her bed to the Meeting, and then, exhausted and fainting with the effort, has had to be almost carried home. But she had done her work, and sent the arrow of conviction into hundreds of hearts.

Writing after one special strain of work and anxiety, she says:–

‘The excitement made me worse than I have been for two years. My heart was really alarming, and for two days I could hardly bear any clothes to touch me. This has disheartened me again as to my condition. But God reigns, and He will keep me alive as long as He needs me.’

Another of her hindrances, and one which was almost more difficult to overcome than weakness of body, was depression.

I wonder if you know what that is? If so, it will help you to realize that Mrs. Booth had to fight it also.

The Devil seemed allowed to try and test her faith to the uttermost, and at times to blot out all peace and glory from her soul. During one such time of darkness she writes:–

‘I know I ought not, of all saints, or sinners either, to be depressed. I know it dishonours my Lord, grieves His Spirit, and injures me greatly; and I would fain hide from everybody to prevent their seeing it. But I cannot help it. I have struggled hard, more than any one knows, for a long time against it. Sometimes I have literally held myself, head and heart and hand, and waited for the floods to pass over me.’

But our Army Mother did not give up working for God, and sit down in despair, because she was thus tried. One day, just before leaving for a great West-End Meeting, in which God made her words as a sharp two-edged sword, she wrote this to one of her children:–

‘I have been very much depressed since you left–more so than usual. It is of no use reasoning with myself when these fits of despondency are on me. I must hold on and fight my passage through; and when I get to Heaven the light and joy will be all the greater. If I dared give up working I should do so a hundred times over; but I _dare_ not.’

Another and constant hindrance which our Army Mother had to fight for the greater part of her life was poverty. It was so difficult, many times, to make two ends meet. She had, during many years of her life, no regular money coming in on which to depend, and during that time it was a constant struggle to have her children properly cared for and give them the needed education.

But most of all did our Army Mother show herself a warrior in her own Salvation campaigns. In those early days there were no praying Soldiers and Sergeants to be had to deal with the penitents–no one, either, to lead her singing, scarcely even to keep the doors or take up the collection. She would arrive in a town absolutely alone. A hall had been taken in which she was to speak, and she would hire a tiny lodging, or stay in whatever home would receive her, and set to work. We can scarcely understand the loneliness of her position. Here was a proof of her mighty faith in God.

She began these solitary campaigns when her sixth child was but a few weeks old, and God most wonderfully owned her labours. At one place she saw one hundred grown-up people and two hundred children come to her penitent-form in six days. But it was a fearful battle.

‘I have a comfortable little cot to stay in,’ she writes to her mother from one such battle-field, ‘very small and humble; but it is clean and quiet; and when I feel nervous no one knows the value of quietness. I have felt it hard work lately. Many a time have I longed to be where the weary are at rest.’

At Margate, some years later, she commenced her Meetings without knowing a single person in the place. For some weeks she had not even a helper in the Prayer Meetings, nor one who would give out a song for her. Mrs. Booth could not sing herself, and there was often an awkward pause before any one would be willing to pitch her tune. ‘If only,’ she said when The Army was fairly on its feet, ‘I had been able to command a dozen reliable people such as I could have anywhere now, I think I could have done almost anything.’

Even more wonderful was her experience at Brighton.

The Dome, a great building holding three thousand people, had been taken for her Meetings.

‘I can never forget my feelings,’ says this Soldier-saint, ‘as I stood upon the platform and looked upon the people, realizing that among them all there was no one to help me. When I commenced the Prayer Meeting, for which I should think quite nine hundred remained, Satan said to me, as I came down from the platform according to my custom, “You will never ask such people as these to come and kneel down here? You will only make a fool of yourself if you do.” I felt stunned for a moment; but I answered, “Yes, I shall. I shall not make it any easier for them than for the others. If they do not realize their sins enough to be willing to come and kneel here, they will not be of much use to the kingdom.”‘

The Lord set His seal upon Mrs. Booth’s faith and courage, for the first to volunteer were two old gentlemen, both over seventy years of age; and she had ten or twelve at the mercy-seat before the Meeting ended.

Writing from Portsmouth, she tells the same story of loneliness and victory:–

‘You say, “How do you get on personally?” Oh, I never was so hampered for help in every way in all my life! The most able man I have keeps a milliner’s shop, and the one that opens for me generally is an overseer; so their attention is divided and the time limited. Pray for me. I never needed your prayers so much. This is a dreadfully wicked place.’

Yet during the seventeen weeks of her stay some six hundred names were taken, many of them wonderful trophies of God’s mercy.

Having lived such a warrior’s life, you think, very likely, that the death-bed experience of our Army Mother would be all peace and glory. But no. Right down into the Valley she needed to use the Sword of the Spirit and the Shield of Faith, for to the last Satan was allowed to test and try her.

But she fought on!

‘One of my hardest lessons,’ she said in her last hours, ‘has been the difference between faith and realization; and if I have had to conquer all through life by naked faith, I can only expect it to be the same now. All our enemies have to be conquered by _faith_, not realization; and is it not so with the last enemy, death? Yes, if it please the Lord that I should go down into the dark valley without any realization, simply knowing that I am His, and He is mine, I am quite willing–I accept it.’

This is the faith that made our Army Mother and all the Bible saints such conquerors. It is the secret of their victory–the faith without which it is impossible to please God, and for which we all need to pray, ‘Lord, increase our faith.’

XI

LAST DAYS

‘As I look back on life I do not remember the houses I have lived in, the people that I have known, the things of passing interest at the moment. They are all gone. There is nothing stands out before my mind as of any consequence, but the work I have done for God and Eternity.’–MRS. BOOTH.

If The General and those who loved our Army Mother best had been able to choose for her, they would most likely have said: ‘Let her live and fight and work on, up to within a few days of her promotion to Glory. Let the call come quickly and painlessly, as it has come to others in our ranks.’

But the Lord, who loved her more than we did, saw fit to send to her two and a half years of ever-increasing weariness and suffering. For long months she lay on the very bank of the River, longing for the messenger of Death to carry her across. Those who loved her could not tell why the Lord sent her this last fiery trial; they could only bow with her, and say, ‘Thy will be done.’

It was in February, 1888, that Mrs. Booth, who was anxious about her health, went to consult a great doctor and get his opinion. She was alone, for no one had thought her illness was so serious. She asked him to tell her the truth–all through her life, as you know, she wanted the truth; and after a little hesitation he told her.

The truth was the saddest that she could hear. That dreadful illness– cancer–through which she had so tenderly nursed her own dear mother, had come to her, and in the doctor’s opinion she had much suffering to pass through, and only two or, at the most, three years longer to live. Mrs. Booth listened calmly, thanked the doctor, and then, getting once more into the cab, drove home all alone.

It was a dark journey. The War needed her. The General needed her. Her children needed her. And yet the sentence of Death had been passed upon her, and she must soon leave them all. What did she do? I think you can guess.

She knelt down in the cab, and in prayer committed to God, in a new and deeper way than ever before, her own body, and her dear ones and the work He had given her to do.

At last the cab stopped before her own door, and The General came out to meet her.

‘I shall never forget that meeting in this world, or the next,’ he says. ‘I had been watching for the cab, and had run out to meet her and help her up the steps. She tried to smile on me through her tears; but, drawing me into the room, soon told me, bit by bit, what the doctor had said. I sat down speechless. She rose from her seat, and came and knelt beside me, saying: “Do you know what was my first thought? That I should not be there to nurse you in your last hour.”

‘I was stunned. I felt as if the whole world were coming to a standstill. Opposite me, on the wall, was a picture of Christ on the cross. I thought I could understand it then, as never before. She talked to me like an angel; she talked as she had never talked before. I could say little or nothing. I could only kneel with her and try to pray. That very same night The General was to leave London for some great Meetings in Holland, and Mrs. Booth would not hear of his changing his plans and remaining with her.

‘The War must go on’ was her thought, even when all her family stood stunned and heart-broken around her, unwilling to leave her even for a moment.

Two years later, when but a few more days of suffering remained to her, a last message from her lips reached us as Self-Denial Week began. ‘The War must go on’ was one of its sentences.

‘The War must go on’ had been as her motto, lived out in all the long, long months that lay between. Instead of immediately laying aside her work, when the doctors gave their dreadful judgment, and beginning to think only of herself, she went on with it as long as her increasing weakness allowed.

But step by step the disease grew worse. First she was forced to give up Meetings and public work. Then it became impossible for her to use her right hand, and she was therefore obliged to give up her correspondence, though she still continued to dictate her letters, and learnt also to write with her left hand.

Soon her daily drives became too tiring, and by and by she went out of the house into the little garden for the last time; and then for the concluding twelve months of her life she was a prisoner in her room, lying in constant suffering.

But during these long months the greatest joy and relief that could come to her was to hear of some fresh victory or triumph for the Kingdom of Jesus. Her interest in The Army and her love for the people were as keen as ever, and War Councils were held and new developments planned in her chamber, and much of The General’s Darkest England Scheme for the poor and outcast was thought out and decided upon beside her sick bed.

Again and again, too, Mrs. Booth would receive deputations of Officers of different classes and from various countries in which The Army was at work, who came to Clacton-on-Sea, where the last fifteen months of her life were spent, to listen to her words of advice and inspiration.

There were no Corps Cadets in those days; but our Army Mother left some specially beautiful words about the Juniors, to which I must refer.

When she was told by the Officer then in charge of our Junior Work in England that the children loved and prayed continually for her, she smiled.

‘The thought of the little ones,’ says some one who was there, ‘brought our beloved Army Mother wholly out of herself and her pain and weariness.’

‘A very choice branch of the work,’ she said. ‘I have often told Emma that I hoped when I was too old for public work God would let me end where I began–with the children. But it seems that it is not to be so.’

‘Give the children,’ she went on, in reply to the messages they had sent, ‘my dear love, and tell them that if there had been a Salvation Army when I was ten I should have been a Soldier then, as I am to-day.

Never allow yourself to be discouraged in your work. I know you must meet with many discouragements; but I am sure the Spirit of God works mightily on little children long before grown people think they are able to understand.’

Again and again during that last year of awful suffering it seemed as if Mrs. Booth were about to leave us; but then she would revive, and come back to endure more weeks and months of agony.

But at last, on October 4, 1890, all could see that she was on the brink of the River, and even those who loved her the most tenderly could not wish to hold her back.

‘O Emma, let me go, darling,’ she whispered; and hearing the reply, ‘Yes, we will, we will,’ she said, ‘Now! Yes, Lord, come, Oh, come!’

The singing of The Army songs seemed to comfort her; and once she raised her suffering arm, and pointed to the text, ‘_My grace is sufficient for thee_,’ which hung on the wall. It was lifted down and placed at the foot of her bed, so that her eyes could often rest on it during those last hours.

‘Soon after noon,’ says the present General, ‘I felt that the deepening darkness of the Valley was closing around my dear mother, and a little later I took my last farewell. Her lips moved, and she gave me one look of unspeakable tenderness and trust which will live with me for ever. Again we sang:–

My mistakes His free grace doth cover, My sins He doth wash away;
These feet which shrink and falter Shall enter the Gates of Day.

And, holding her hand, The General gave her up to God. It was a solemn and wonderful scene.’

The Chief of the Staff and Mrs. Bramwell Booth, Mrs. Booth-Tucker, and the Commander, and her three daughters, Marian, Eva, and Lucy, knelt round the bed, upon which were placed photographs of the other members of her family who were unavoidably absent. Near to her stood her faithful nurse, Captain Carr, and others of the household, the dear General bowing over his beloved wife and companion in life’s long strife, and giving her up to the keeping of the Father.

One by one the members of the family tenderly embraced her; then a gleam of recognition passed over the brightening countenance as The General bent over her. Their eyes met—the last kiss of love on earth, the last word till the Morning, and without a movement the breathing gently ceased, and a warrior laid down her sword to receive her crown.

* * * * *

You may have heard of those wonderful days from Tuesday morning till Sunday night, when the coffin containing the precious remains of our Army Mother lay at the Congress Hall, Clapton, and when more than fifty thousand people came to have a last look at her dear face.

A piece of glass had been let into the plain oak coffin. It was just large enough to show the head and shoulders, and she lay as if in a sweet sleep.

You wonder if many came merely from curiosity. Some did, of course, but most of the people came because her life and example and words had been so blessed to their souls; and they came as they would come to look at the dead face of their own mother. It was the most wonderful tribute to a woman’s life and words that London had ever seen.

For all kinds of people came–rich and poor, good and bad, people of many different religions, and many with no religion at all. Working men came in their dinner-hour, with their tools on their backs and tears in their eyes; mothers lifted up their little children to look at the one who had taught them the way of life; and, best of all, by the side of her coffin knelt many a wanderer and backslider to give themselves afresh to God.

More than one poor girl went direct from the Congress Hall to the Rescue Homes, to begin to live ‘as she would have wished’; and the Cadets on guard were all the time dealing with drunkards and helping those who desired to begin from thenceforth to live a new and different life.

Even to-day, twenty-four years later, we often meet those who date their conversion, or their first step in the Narrow Way, from their look at that face lying in its simple coffin.

One of Mrs. Booth’s own grandchildren, Mary, the present General’s second daughter, looks back to that scene as the time when God in an unmistakable manner sealed her as His. She was only five years old as she knelt by the coffin, but nevertheless she decided there, in her childish consecration, like Ruth of old, that ‘Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God’; and in the spirit of this consecration she lives to-day.

* * * * *

In order that some of the crowds who wished to share in the funeral service might be present, the largest hall in London, the Olympia, was taken. Twenty-six thousand people filled it; and though it was, of course, impossible for them all to hear, they followed the service given on printed papers with reverent sympathy.

The coffin was carried down the immense hall by Officers; The General and his family followed.

Those who arranged for this last mighty gathering remembered that Mrs. Booth, when with us, was never happy to leave a Meeting unless it had been brought to a point, and something definite had been done; and therefore, when the songs and prayers and readings were over, the huge crowd was asked to kneel and make a solemn covenant with God.

It was a beautiful covenant, and ended with these words:–

‘And now, in this solemn hour, and in the presence of death, I come again to Thy footstool, and make this covenant with Thee.’

Then all who had made the covenant from their hearts rose and sang together:–

Just as I am Thou dost receive,
Dost welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve, Because Thy promise I believe,
O Lamb of God, I come!

It was just such an ending to the wonderful service as our Army Mother would have chosen had she been still on earth with us.

* * * * *

The next morning was dry and bright. ‘I shall ask God to give you a fine day for my funeral, Emma, so that you mayn’t take cold,’ our Army Mother had said, for she was ever thoughtful for others; and her prayer was answered, for though the white mist crept up from the river to the Embankment, where the procession was forming up, there was no rain nor wind.

Tens of thousands of our dear Soldiers would gladly have sacrificed a day’s work in order to follow in the funeral procession of one they so dearly loved; but, so as not to gather too large a crowd, only Officers were allowed in the march, which passed through countless throngs of people from International Headquarters to Abney Park Cemetery, a distance of about five miles.

All along the route the crowds stood in dense masses, and roofs, windows, and every nook and corner were packed with human beings. Nothing had been seen like it, said the police, since the Duke of Wellington’s funeral, forty years before.

It was a wonderful march. I wish you could have seen it! Sometimes it seemed as if every one was weeping; and when the open hearse, with its plain oak coffin, crowned by The Army bonnet and well-worn Bible, passed, all heads were bared, all voices hushed, and tears filled all eyes.

The General, standing alone in his open carriage all along the long, sad way, must have felt that he had the people’s sympathy and love with him in his grief, for scores of heartfelt ‘God bless you’s!’ came from lips that are unused to such words.

And at last the yellow evening sun shone out as the great procession reached the gates of Abney Park Cemetery and wound towards the open grave.

Only a part of the mighty throng could hear The General’s beautiful words, so strong and yet so tender, from which I have already quoted, but all joined in the song, ‘Rock of Ages,’ which seemed to roll up to the heavens themselves.

Several leading Officers and members of The General’s own family prayed and spoke, wonderfully upheld in spite of their deep grief and the strain of the last days. And then by the open grave the present General led all hearts to make a fresh consecration, the whole assembly promising, with God’s help, that they would be

‘Faithful to Thee, faithful to one another, and faithful to a dying world, till we meet our beloved Mother in the Morning. Amen.’

* * * * *

If ever you are in Abney Park Cemetery you should visit her grave. It is very simple. Around the little piece of earth runs a grey stone, with these words carved on it:–

CATHERINE BOOTH,

MOTHER OF THE SALVATION ARMY

More than Conqueror, through Him that loved us, and gave Himself for all the world and for you.

Do you also follow Christ?

and above are two small beds of flowers.

Do many people go to see it? you wonder.

Oh, yes. All round it a path is worn in the grass, made by the tread of many feet; for mothers bring their boys and girls to see it, and tell them what a mother she was, and men and women of all creeds and races pause beside it, and remember.

Many Officers, too–from distant lands, and speaking strange tongues you could not understand–come to The Army Mother’s grave when they visit our shores. For she was their Mother as well as ours, they say.

They kneel beside the stone, and spell out the name, and then they consecrate themselves afresh to God and the needs of the heathen lands, and they claim His grace to follow in her steps.

For our Army Mother is not dead. True, her body lies in the quiet grave at Abney Park, and her spirit is in Heaven; but her life and influence still live among us, her words are treasured, and our greatest prayer and desire for the girls and wives and mothers in our ranks is that they may live to be worthy daughters of Catherine Booth.

DATES IN MRS. BOOTH’S LIFE

1829. January 17th. Catherine Mumford born at Ashbourne, Derby. 1829. April 10th. William Booth born at Nottingham. 1843. Catherine has to leave school owing to severe illness. 1844. Refuses to be engaged to her cousin. 1845. Is converted.
1846. Seems likely to go into consumption. 1850. Takes Sunday class of elder girls. 1851. June. Miss Mumford hears Mr. Booth preach; later meets him at a friend’s house.
1852. May 15th. They are engaged to be married. 1855. June 16th. The wedding.
1857. Mrs. Booth speaks to a children’s meeting on Temperance. 1859. She starts work among drunkards. She writes her first pamphlet on woman’s right to preach.
1860. Mrs. Booth speaks for the first time in public. 1861. Mr. and Mrs. Booth break up their home in the north, and come to London, choosing an evangelistic life. 1864. Mrs. Booth begins to hold Evangelistic campaigns apart from her husband.
1864. July. East End Mission begun. 1868. First Headquarters established.
1869. Mrs. Booth’s wonderful Brighton campaign. 1870. East London Mission becomes the ‘Christian Mission.’ 1871. Mrs. Booth publishes her first book. 1877. Christian Mission becomes ‘The Salvation Army.’ 1878. The uniform is chosen.
1886. First Self-Denial Week.
1888. February. Mrs. Booth learns that she is suffering from cancer. 1888. June 21st. Mrs. Booth speaks in public for the last time (at the City Temple).
1889. August. She goes to Clacton-on-Sea. 1890. October 4th. Mrs. Booth is promoted to Glory. 1890. October 6th. Her body brought to Congress Hall, Clapton. 1890. October 11th. Funeral at Abney Park.