The Good Fight

1 Timothy 1:18

On May 9, 1912, 7,000 Salvationists packed London’s Royal Albert Hall to hear the Founder, William Booth. “And now, comrades and friends, I must say goodbye. I am going into dry-dock for repairs, but the Army will not be allowed to suffer, either financially or spiritually, or in any other way by my absence.

“And in the long future I think it will be seen—I shall not be here to see, but you will—that the Army will answer every doubt and banish every fear and strangle every slander, and by its marvelous success show to the world that it is the work of God and that the General has been His servant.

While women weep, as they do now, I’ll fight!

While little children go hungry, as they do now, I’ll fight!

While men go to prison, in and out, in and out,

as they do now, I’ll fight!

While there is a drunkard left,

While there is a poor lost girl upon the streets,

While there remains one dark soul without the light of God,

I’ll fight—I’ll fight to the very end!”

It was his last speech, perhaps his greatest. Three months later, on August 20, 1912, he died at the age of 83. Staff officers arriving at International Headquarters the following morning saw a simple message in the window: “The General Has Laid Down His Sword.”

At a three-day lying-in-state, 150,000 persons filed past the old warrior’s casket, and on the day of his funeral city offices of London were dark and shuttered. Around his grave lay wreaths from the king and queen and from titled heads-of-state throughout the world.

Unknown to most, far to the rear of the hall, sat Britain’s Queen Mary. Beside her on the aisle was a shabby, but neatly dressed woman, who had confessed her secret to the queen. Once a prostitute, The Salvation Army had saved her. She had come early to claim an aisle seat, guessing that the casket would pass within feet of her. As it did, she had unobtrusively placed three carnations on the lid, and all through the service they were the only flowers on the casket. Queen Mary was deeply moved when the woman turned to her and said simply, in words which could stand as William Booth’s epitaph: “He cared for the likes of us.”

George Scott Railton, General Booth

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