Friday, 5 September 2014

William Booth on the Gospel

I want to put it to you that the original Salvation Army was thoroughly Gospel-centred.

I say this simply because there is a strong emphasis on a form of outreach that is centred on 'Social Action' first and foremost, and I believe that many Salvationists focus on this and forget about the power of the gospel to change hearts, focusing on changing peoples' outward conditions.

The acid test:

The supreme test of any scheme for benefiting humanity lies in the answer to the question, What does it make of the individual? Does it quicken his conscience, does it soften his heart, does it enlighten his mind, does it, in short, make more of a true man of him, because only by such influences can he be enabled to lead a human life? Among the denizens of Darkest England there are many who have found their way thither by defects of character which would under the most favourable circumstances relegate them to the same position. Hence, unless you can change their character your labour will be lost. You may clothe the drunkard, fill his purse with gold, establish him in a well-furnished home, and in three, or six, or twelve months he will once more be on the Embankment, haunted by delirium tremens, dirty, squalid, and ragged. Hence, in all cases where a man's own character and defects constitute the reasons for his fall, that character must be changed and that conduct altered if any permanent beneficial results are to be attained. If he is a drunkard, he must be made sober; if idle, he must be made industrious; if criminal, he must be made honest; if impure, he must be made clean; and if he be so deep down in vice, and has been there so long that he has lost all heart, and hope, and power to help himself, and absolutely refuses to move, he must be inspired with hope and have created within him the ambition to rise; otherwise he will never get out of the horrible pit.

Food banks, take note:

The thing to be noted in all these cases is that it was not the mere feeding which effected the result; it was the combination of the feeding with the personal labour for the individual soul. Still, if we had not fed them, we should never have come near enough to gain any hold upon their hearts. If we had merely fed them, they would have gone away next day to resume, with increased energy, the predatory and vagrant life which they had been leading. But when our feeding and Shelter Depots brought them to close quarters, our officers were literally able to put their arms round their necks and plead with them as brethren who had gone astray. We told them that their sins and sorrows had not shut them out from the love of the Everlasting Father, who had sent us to them to help them with all the power of our strong Organisation, of the Divine authority of which we never feel so sure as when it is going forth to seek and to save the lost.

The work of the gospel:

1. The foundation of all the Army's success, looked at apart from its divine source of strength, is its continued direct attack upon those whom it seeks to bring under the influence of the Gospel. The Salvation Army Officer, instead of standing upon some dignified pedestal, to describe the fallen condition of his fellow men, in the hope that though far from him, they may thus, by some mysterious process, come to a better life, goes down into the street, and from door to door, and from room to room, lays his hands on those who are spiritually sick, and leads them to the Almighty Healer. In its forms of speech and writing the Army constantly exhibits this same characteristic. Instead of propounding religious theories or pretending to teach a system of theology, it speaks much after the fashion of the old Prophet or Apostle, to each individual, about his or her sin and duty, thus bringing to bear upon each heart and conscience the light and power from heaven, by which alone the world can be transformed.

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