Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Persecution in The Salvation Army during the 1880s

The history of The Salvation Army contains many a story of persecution that occurred when Salvationists chose to serve Christ on the streets. They took the transformative message of Jesus Christ to the streets, and that's where the persecuted erupted. The United Kingdom in the late 1870s and 1880s were not too keen on listening to, and putting up with the preaching of these 'Salvationists', who would unashamedly preach the need for repentance and to be filled with the power of the Holy Ghost.

Colonel Henry Gariepy in his 2009 one volume history of The Salvation Army (Christianity in Action) writes, 'During one year, 1882, the number of Salvationists knocked down or otherwise assaulted in the United Kingdom was 669. More than one-third of them, 251, were women, and 23 were children. Eighty-six Salvationists, 15 of them women, were thrown into prison. All because they took part in religious meetings in their own buildings or in the open air.' (: 30).

Some Salvationist's were martyred for their faith, but that did not stop the passion and zeal of the early Salvationists. Even when hundreds were thrown in jail (over 600 in 1884 alone), the commitment to preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ on the streets prevailed. Colonel Gariepy says, 'Some shopkeepers kept eggs of vintage for sale at reduced prices for assailing Salvationists on the march' (: 29). This is a nice way of saying, shopkeepers kept a bunch of rotten eggs for sale, so people could 'egg' the Salvos when they marched on by! Along with the sharp rocks that were thrown, no wonder the Salvation Army bonnet was introduced!!

Bramwell Booth wrote that the fiercest opposition did not come from drunkards on the streets, but from the local churches. He writes about the churches, saying, 'We were fighting for freedom to proclaim the same Savior whom they honored. We were a menace to the "comfortable" worship of the day. Our people's zeal and joy put to shame the religion which consisted mostly in a listless rote. Ours was a practical faith. It appealed to the common mass. It offered a spiritual charter to the ecclesiastically disfranchised...' (Bramwell Booth, Echoes and Memories, 1925).

There is much more to say regarding the history of The Salvation Army, and its history of persecution. Stories come to mind of Frederick Booth Tucker being thrown in jail, in India, and the band of followers standing outside the jail cell, all singing praise to God. "You go to jail, I'll go to jail, we'll all go to jail..."

What an intriguing, fascinating and rich history The Salvation Army has. See Henry Gariepy's Christianity in Action (2009) for more... 

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