One picture among the many that I cherish of my father explains a certain development in the history of the Army, and gives a glimpse of the deep fires that burned in the personality of William Booth. One morning, away back in the eighties, I was an early caller at his house. Here I found him in his dressing room. No “good morning how do you do” here!
“Bramwell,” he cried, when he caught sight of me, “did you know that men slept out all night on the bridges?”
He had arrived in London very late the night before and had to cross the city to reach his home. What he had seen on that midnight return accounted for this morning tornado. Did I know that men slept out all night on the bridges?
“Well, yes,” I replied, “a lot of poor fellows, I suppose, do that.”
“Then you ought to be ashamed of yourself to have known it and to have done nothing for them,” he went on, vehemently.
I began to speak of the difficulties, burdened as we were already, of taking up all sort of work, and so forth. My father stopped me with a peremptory wave.
“Go and do something!” he said. “We must do something.”
“What can we do?”
“Get them a shelter!”
“That will cost money.”
“Well, that is your affair! Something must be done. Get hold of a warehouse and warm it, and find something to cover them.”
That was the beginning of The Salvation Army shelters, the earliest and most typical institutions connected with our now worldwide social work. But it also throws a ray of light on the characteristic benevolence of the Army’s Founder. The governing influence of his life was goodwill to his fellows. His heart was a bottomless well of compassion, and it was for this reason principally that, although perhaps more widely and persistently abused than any other figure of his time, he was even more widely and tenaciously loved.
“For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited Me in” (Matt. 25:35).
Bramwell Booth, Echoes and Memories