William Booth Finds His Destiny
In a sense, The Salvation Army’s missionary outreach began in 1865. One evening William Booth left his West London lodgings and walked along Mile End Waste, a one-and-a-half-mile stretch of “shows, shooting-ranges, petty dealers, and quack-doctors.” Outside the “Blind Beggar” pub, he listened to some street evangelists; when they had finished, he was invited to speak and found it an invigorating challenge. At midnight, when he returned home, he told Catherine, “Darling, I have found my destiny!”
Capturing the spirit of that beginning is this poem by Salvationist author John Coutts* [* From Humanities (Robert Greene Publishing, 1 Cirrus Crescent, Gravesend, Kent KA12 4QS England). Used by permission.] . It describes an early open-air address by Booth and his assistant, George Scott Railton.
When William came at last to Mile End Waste He saw the grey world sliding to and fro Like aimless rubbish on the indifferent tide: And then there came the dry and evil chuckle That once beset the Son of Man Himself. "Don’t waste your time: no Saviour died for them— Bundles of rags redeemed in precious gin: My flock, you know: poor devils damned already!” Sick with despair he tossed his mane and cried “Give us a song.” So Railton thundered forth “Jesus, the name high over all … ” … and suddenly The two were bobbing in the uproarious mob Of drunks and drabs and roughs and hags and demons Swarmed from the lurid gaslit hells around. “Hurrah” roared William: as the battle brewed He saw Christ’s blood—bright as a royal banner Flaunted before King Satan and his hosts. Loudly he roared against the assembled fiends That gripped each pauper by the throat, and perched On twisted shoulders ...