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Have I Made the Best Use of My life., Issue 7905, 13 May 1889
Have I Made the Best Use of My life.
GENERAL BOOTH'S ANSWER. In the new number of 'All the world,' the monthly organ of the Salvation Army, which now appears in improved and enlarged shape, General Booth passes in review the forty-fouryears of his life's work, and asks himself whether, from the purely secular point of view, he has done as much to remove the misery of the world as he might have done if he had adopted other methods, social or political, instead of devoting his life to the establishment of the Salvation Army. HIS STARTING POINT. It is now nearly forty-four years since I started to serve God. The very first article in my creed, which I held with all the certainty of a direct revelation from heaven, was a belief in the sacrificing love of Christ to men, love which impelled Him continually to Beek their welfare. And my new-born love to the same Saviour urged me continually to seek the fulfilment of His will with respect to the men and women around me. The desire to persuade men to be reconciled to God became henceforth the main propelling purpose of my life. I felt like a man on a rock-bound coast strewed with wrecks on which the struggling mariners, unless rescued from the shore, were certain to go down beneath the raging surf. Their temporary comfort or discomfort was as nothing compared with the business of their rescue.
THE MISERY OF MAN. But as time wore on the earthly miseries connected with the condition of the people began to force themselves more particularly on my notice. In the town in which I lived I saw men walking about wan and worn with hunger. I saw others wallowing in drunkenness, vice, and other abominations, which reduced them below the level of the beasts of the field. I saw poor women and children compelled to live in hovels of the most wretched squalor and filth, from which light and air were all but excluded. I knew also that over all this misery there were unjust laws that seemed to favor the perpetuation of the calamitous circumstances that pressed so heavily on the wretched multitudes, and as I looked, my heart yearned over the sorrowful crowds; the brightness of my early days was clouded by the presence of these miseries ; I longed intensely to lend a hand to deliver the perishing; and should have been quite willing to have given myself up—boy as I was—to a life of hardship, if thereby I could have relieved or removed some of these woes that darkened the earthly lot of the children of my people. But as I came to look more closely into things, I discovered that the miseries from which I sought to save man in the next world were substantially the same as those from which I everywhere found him suffering in this, and that they procoeded from the same cause—that is, from his alienation from and his rebellion against God, and from his own disordered dispositions and appetites. I saw that when the Bible said " He that believeth shall be saved," it meant not only saved from the miseries of the future world, but from the miseries of this also. That it came with the promise of salvation here and now; from hell and sin, and vice and crime and idleness and extravagance, and consequently very largely from poverty and disease, and the majority of kindred woes. Now I shouted " I have found a remedy indeed !" WHAT HE MIGHT HAVE DONE. _ General Booth then passes in review the various courses which he might have taken. (1) He might have entered on a campaign againßt poverty, or have made a fortune and given it away. (2) He might have gone in for social reform, but he could not have hoped to have done what has been accomplished in connection with the changes whish have resulted from Salvation work, whereby multitudes upon multitudes have transported themselves from slums, attics, garrets, and cellars to comfortable cottages and dwellings, while in numberless instances they have advanced their families to respectable and influential social positions. (3) The Salvation Army has, he thinks, done more to cheer and elevate the lives of the poor than any scheme for shorter hours. In thousands of homes where once nothing was known but cursing, quarrelling, and misery, there is now the spirit of contentment and song of praise and gladness. (4) As a doctor he could not have cured so much suffering and disease as the Army has prevented by teaching cleanliness, temperance, and parental duty. (5) As a temperance reformer he could not have delivered as many hundreds from intemperance as the Army has delivered thousands.
(6) and (7) Neither in reforming criminals nor in rescuing fallen women could he hope to have accomplished in a lifetime what the Army does in a year.
COULD HE HAVE DONE MORE IN TOLITICS ?
This brings General Booth to consider the eighth alternative, the adoption of political agitation as a substitute for religious evangelism. He says:— Now, supposing that I had taken up my parable, and, addressing the poor world in which I am so deeply interested, had said : "Oh! my poor fellow men, I see you struggling in this abyss of agony ; I see all the evils which prey upon you—your poverty, your hard, ill-requited toil, the wretched novels in which you live, the sad and clouded existence you are compelled to endure; the crime, the uncleanliness, the blasphemies, the unbridled passions, the diseases, the doubtiugs, the deaths that are bred among you—bred very largely without your choice and without your power to destroy. My heart yearns over you, I want to see you happy. I will give my life for you ; all my days and strength shall be spent in delivering you, in making you glad, and I will accomplish the task by political agitation; I will regenerate you by human government; I will make you happy by Acts of Parliament! " Supposing this had been my plan—supposing that I had intendod it all and spent my forty-four years in endeavouring to work it out—what would have been the result ? "MY PLAN FOR REMOVING MISERY."
Therefore, concludes General Booth, especially remembering that misery does not dwell only with the poor, the sick, the harlot, and the drunkard, "I am sure that my plan for removing misery in this world—the plan to which the Spirit of God led me forty-four years ago, and in the working out of which He has sustained me ever since—has gone much deeper than any human, methods could possibly have done, not only dealing with results, but healing the festering disease itself, and opening in the soul an overflowing fountain of gladness.
Have I Made the Best Use of My life., Issue 7905, 13 May 1889
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