William Booth

William Booth


Founder and first general of the Salvation Army


Born into a prosperous home that fell into poverty, he had to leave school and become a pawn-broker’s apprentice. He was converted two years later in 1844 and joined the Methodist church. Worked as an evangelist among the poor of Nottingham and was a lay preacher. Became a Methodist minister, but his heart was in evangelism, and so resigned. Moved to London’s East End as an independent evangelist and was overheard preaching by The Blind Beggar pub in Whitechapel by some folk who invited him to lead a tent mission. This became the ‘Christian Mission’ led by he and his wife Catherine, which met every evening and Sunday working among alcoholics, prostitutes and others lowly types. He would ‘stumble home night after night haggard with fatigue, often his clothes were torn and bloody bandages swathed his head where a stone had struck’- their meetings were often targeted with stones and fireworks.

‘The name of the Salvation Army developed in May 1878. William Booth was dictating a letter to his secretary George Railton and said, "We are a volunteer army." Bramwell Booth, his son, heard his father and said, "Volunteer, I'm no volunteer, I'm a regular!" Railton was instructed to cross out the word "volunteer" and substitute the word "salvation"’. During his lifetime, William Booth established Army work in 58 countries and colonies, travelling extensively and holding, "salvation meetings

Publicans and Brewers, fearing a slump in profits, promoted the The Skeleton Army: ‘The Unconverted Salvation Army'; “Beef, Beer and Bacca”; In 1889 at least 669 Salvation Army members were assaulted, including 251 women.

"In the Open-Airs my old mates gave me many a blow and kick - but I stuck fast. At times they would follow me home singing, 'Jeffries will help to roll the old chariot along' - and, thank God, I am doing it.” Charles Jeffries, 1881 (Ex-Skeleton Thug and Christian convert, who became a high-ranking Salvationist.

Public opinion toward Booth and the Army became more positive, and he was welcomed by kings and emperors, though he started to go blind by 1904 when he went on a tour of Great Britain preaching from his open top car, and then around Europe.

150,000 filed past his coffin when he died and 40,000 attended his funeral, including Queen Mary who quietly sat at the back, unrecognised.


Many were converted through him; much benefit was given to the poor. He reached out to those ‘sinners’ others couldn’t reach.

His legacy of the Salvation Army lives on.

Anglicanism followed his lead with the Church Army,


  • Did he take social action too far in the latter part of his life?
  • Is it Biblical having a church modelled on an army?
  • Appointed his own children as leaders and successors, and insisted his children-in-law adopt his name suggesting the creation of a dynasty.
  • Called Anti-Christ by the great Lord Shaftesbury.


‘In Darkest England and the Way Out’.

"Soup", "Soap" and "Salvation" cf The Skeleton Army.

I have no intention to depart in the smallest degree from the main principles on which I have acted in the past. My only hope for the permanent deliverance of mankind from misery, either in this world or the next, is the regeneration or remaking of the individual by the power of the Holy Ghost through Jesus Christ. But in providing for the relief of temporal misery I reckon that I am only making it easy where it is now difficult, and possible where it is now all but impossible, for men and women to find their way to the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.

"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!

"We must wake ourselves up! Or somebody else will take our place, and bear our cross, and thereby rob us of our crown."

‘I consider that the chief dangers which confront the coming century will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God, and heaven without hell.’

You cannot warm the hearts of people with God's love if they have an empty stomach and cold feet.

I will tell you the secret: God has had all that there was of me. There have been men with greater brains than I, even with greater opportunities, but from the day I got the poor of London on my heart and caught a vision of what Jesus Christ could do with me and them, on that day I made up my mind that God should have all of William Booth there was. And if there is anything of power in the Salvation Army, it is because God has had all the adoration of my heart, all the power of my will, and all the influence of my life.

I am not waiting for a move of God, I am a move of God!

If you want to change the future, then you are going to have to trouble the present.

Secular music, do you say, belongs to the devil? Does it? Well, if it did I would plunder him for it, for he has no right to a single note of the whole seven. Every note, and every strain, and every harmony is divine, and belongs to us.

If I thought I could win one more soul to the Lord by walking on my head and playing the tambourine with my toes, I'd learn how!

Faith and works should travel side by side, step answering to step, like the legs of men walking. First faith, and then works; and then faith again, and then works again--until they can scarcely distinguish which is the one and which is the other.

If Moses had operated through committees the Israelites never would have got across the Red Sea.