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    “He was always like that!”

    Retrospective #68 April 10, 2018 Randy C. Hicks
    “Criminal instincts?” he exclaimed to me once in a discussion
    “Criminal instincts?” he exclaimed to me once in a discussion

    Early on in his book THE LIFE OF WILLIAM BOOTH (New York, THE MACMILLAN COMPANY, 1920)Harold Begbie shares the following:

    “Two days after William Booth’s birth, no time being lost at that period to secure either immediate regeneration or a Christian burial in case of death, the infant was baptized at Sneinton Church. The entry in the parish register reads as follows:

    William, son of Samuel Booth, Nottintone Place, gentleman, and Mary his wife. Ceremony performed by George Wilkins D.D., Perpetual Curate, Vicar of St. Mary’s; baptized 12th April, 1829”

    Shortly after the above one will read:

         “He spoke often and eloquently, of this mother: seldom of his father, and then with a note of uncertainty – sometimes with unwilling harshness, sometimes with a too evident effort to discover a virtue. “Criminal instincts?” he exclaimed to me once in a discussion on heredity; “why, we have all got them. I have got them. My father was a Grab, a Get. He had been born in poverty. He determined to grow rich; and he did. He grew very rich, because he lived without God and simply worked for money; and when he lost it all, his heart broke with it, and he died miserably. I have inherited the Grab from him. I want to get.” And his arm shot forward, the hand clawing at the air, to signify that he wanted to “grab” souls and get for them the treasure of eternal life.” (p.23)

    Wow! Such was the spirit of our Founder!

         Begbie speaks of William’s second birth (conversion) occurring in the mid-1840s and shortly thereafter he would preach his first sermon.


         “There is still living in Nottingham a very old woman who knew the Booths in Snienton, and remembers the first sermon preached by William Booth. She gave me an account of that sermon, and described the meetings in the cottages, her dim eyes shining with pleasure through their thick spectacles, her face illuminated by a deep joy.

         “The first sermon he ever preached,” she said, “was in Kid Street. I remember it very well… Will Booth’s sermon…was very gentle and tender, quite different than anything else I ever heard him say to the people…He talked of little children learning to walk…And then he asked if any mother, watching her child’s first efforts to walk, would be cross with the infant’s failure, would shout at it when it swayed, would sit still, unmoved, when it fell and hurt itself. Then he said that it was just as difficult to live a true Christian life, and that we should always be on the look-out for helping people, especially those who were just beginning to live that life. He said that it was wrong to judge them when they failed, and just as wrong to sit idle when they fell. We should run, and lift them up, and help them. Hard words would not help them; sitting still would not help them; we must go and do something to make it less hard for them to walk straight.”

         She told me, too, that she had heard one of his earliest preachings in the open street… “That was a very different sermon!” she exclaimed. “He called out in his great voice that all the suffering and the sorrow of the world came from sin…I think there had never been such preaching in the open streets before…I remember, too, how he was insulted, and how calmly he bore it. Once, while he was preaching…a man who had stopped to listen suddenly shouted out, shaking his fist at the preacher, ‘You liar! you liar!’ And Will Booth just looked at him, and said in a very soft, kindly voice, ‘Friend, it was for you He died; stop, and be saved.’ He was always like that.” (p.64-65)

    One more quote from William used by Begbie:

         “It is useless for you to struggle, the sin is stronger than you; nothing can come of your efforts except defeat and death; but, seek a change of heart, surrender yourself entirely to God, leave it to Him to overcome your temptations, and you will find victory is yours.” (p.75-76)

         We give God thanks for His servant and chosen vessel, Co-Founder of The Salvation Army, General William Booth born on this day in 1829.


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