General William Booth

True Stories of Revival
Bruce Atkinson

William boothWilliam booth


General Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, brought revival into the sin slums of the world. Born in Nottingham in 1829 he was saved in his teenage years and immediately set out to evangelise the downtrodden and desperate. Preaching in the streets and visiting many in hospital, he soon became a successful Methodist preacher ministering to a thousand strong congregation in Gateshead.

Yet one thought continually obsessed him as he looked out of the Chapel window at miles of slate roofs: “In how many of those houses, he wondered, is the name of Christ never mentioned? Why am I here with this crowded chapel of people who want to hear the message? Why am I not outside, bringing the message of God to those who don’t want it?”


Battling for souls

Booth felt more and more restricted by denominational responsibilities that hindered his evangelistic calling. In the end he turned his back on a promising career in the Methodist church to minister in the poverty and sin ridden East End of London where children of five were addicted to alcohol and prostitution was rife.

A family member said, “The sins of London did not shock him. They seemed to tear at his heart with claws that drew blood.” Night after night William Booth shared the gospel on the streets of London. Often he would return home after midnight, clothes torn, or head bandaged where a rock or cudgel had struck him, some nights he stayed out all night. This General was learning to fight as a ‘private’ in the thick of the battle for souls.

Soon Booth began opening a series of mission stations in different parts of London. Men and women once drowning in vilest sin were not only converted to Christ but also to reaching other lost souls. They were tough, fierce east enders who preached the gospel without the fear of man. Some converts, such as Rodney “Gipsy” Smith, became world famous evangelists. Another of Booth’s evangelists advocated “praying ’till your knees were petrified and preaching until you were too hoarse to make yourself heard.”

Booth and his evangelists would hand out flyers for evangelistic meetings reading “Come drunk or sober “. Each convert was visited once a week and personally discipled.

Booth also pioneered works in other English cities, many called them “the Hallelujah Army” and they eventually called themselves the Salvation Army.

The Salvation Army has always cared for the body as well as the soul with hostels for the homeless and kitchens for the hungry. Boot knew it was wrong to “console empty bellies with promises of spiritual bliss”. He practised Christ’s words to the disciples “You give then something to eat.”

“Blood and Fire”

Booth was opposed by many as his Salvation Army made strides around the nation. Some opposers backed by money from the alcohol trade set up an opposition organisation called the “Skeleton Army”. This demonic army existed to oppose the work of the Salvationists at every turn. Carrying banners bearing symbols of Satan and the skull and cross bones, they disrupted meetings and missions around the whole nation violently attacking any member they found.

Yet far from preventing the Salvation Army from reaching the Lost the persecution actually helped the cause spread.

Salvation Army brass bands were formed to draw crowds and thunder out popular secular tunes with Christian lyrics “Why should the Devil have all the best tunes?” asked Booth. “Blood and Fire” became the army’s motto; their evangelistic magazine is still called the “War Cry”.

In 1904 Booth signed King Edward VII’s autograph album as follows:

Your Majesty,

Some men ‘s ambition is art,

Some men ‘s ambition is fame,

Some men ‘s ambition is gold.

My ambition is the souls of men

During a divine visitation the Holy Spirit showed Booth a vision of lost souls. So motivated was he by this that he launched a movement that still touches the world today. Read his vision and let it change your life.

Catherine Booth was the co-founder of the Salvation Army, along with her husband, William Booth, and for decades the Salvationists were known for their fearless, uncompromising preaching of the gospel, their sacrificial living and their compassionate care for the hurting and the poor.

Catherine was the more fiery preacher of the two, and in her sermon “Aggressive Christianity,” she exclaimed, “Opposition! It is a bad sign for the Christianity of this day that it provokes so little opposition. If there were no other evidence of it being wrong, I should know from that. When the church and the world can jog along together comfortably, you may be sure there is something wrong. The world has not altered. Its spirit is exactly the same as it ever was, and if Christians were equally faithful and devoted to the Lord and separated from the world, living so that their lives were a reproof to all ungodliness, the world would hate them as much as it ever did. It is the church that has altered, not the world.”