The History of Reformations
by Maud Booth
(an excerpt from Chapter 1 of Beneath Two Flags: A Study in Mercy and Help Methods by Maud Booth)
In anticipation of The Greater Heritage’s upcoming release of Beneath Two Flags: A Study in Mercy and Help Methods, by Maud Ballington Booth (1865-1948) we’ve decided to offer a snapshot of the book below for you to enjoy.
It is an excerpt from the first chapter “The History of Reformations” and it captures the distinct flare for social reform and Gospel proclamation that Booth and The Salvation Army championed in the late Victorian era.
In particular, her comment that “Reforms never were and never will be carried out without raising dust,” is quite compelling and demonstrates one of the many reasons why we find this book relevant for modern readers.
Originally published in the 1890s, Beneath Two Flags was both a defense of The Salvation Army’s evangelistic methodologies and a manual for effective approaches to social work, social reform and nonprofit management.
There’s a lot of great content to glean from the book, especially regarding missions work, Christian service and of course witnessing. We look forward to re-releasing it in non-facsimile format for a new generation of readers this spring.
We’re also publishing the book in partnership with the Heritage Museum for The Salvation Army’s USA Eastern Territory, and Robert Jeffery, MDiv, the museum’s director, has graciously written an exceptional foreword to the book about the life of Maud Booth and why her ideas remain relevant for contemporary audiences.
Stay tuned to our email list for updates about the book’s release.
The History of Reformations
The history of reformations affords many reflections, which have doubtless occurred to every thoughtful mind, of the difference between the estimate of reformers by their contemporaries and by succeeding generations.
It is the old story of Phidias and the statue. The lines and elements which seemed harsh and crude to those who inspected it closely, viewed at a distance and as a whole, are softened and proportioned, until they command the admiration and reverence of every beholder.“In so far as every great man keeps as his motive power the overcoming of evil, just so far will he find all the resources of that evil arrayed against him in never-ceasing conflict.”
It becomes “a thing of beauty and a joy forever,” and we look back at it and say not “He builded better than he knew,” but, “He builded better than we knew.”
The greatest names on the world’s records today are the names of men and women who, in the eyes of their neighbors, were small and of ill reputation.
It is, perhaps, not always the case with statesmen and generals, with patriots and men of letters, because the objects for which they strive are those universally recognized as being the summit of earthly ambition; but in so far as every great man keeps as his motive power the overcoming of evil, just so far will he find all the resources of that evil arrayed against him in never-ceasing conflict.
We need go no farther back than the anti-slavery movement, and study no other lives than those of Sumner and Phillips and Garrison, to see what reception a man must expect if he attacks even a monstrous and self-evident evil.“The more vital the reform, the more thoroughly old customs are to be changed, the greater will be the opposition of the world.”
If this is true of philanthropy, how much truer it is of the Church of God! The kingdom of God and the kingdom of this world are eternally opposite, and in religions movements where “the world, the flesh, and the devil” are recognized as foes to be fought and defeated, this same world and flesh and devil are not slow to detect and oppose this warfare.
It is not necessary to point out Christ, the Saviour of the world, “despised and rejected of men;” “possessed of a devil,” and, at last, crucified as a slave; Paul, hunted from city to city; Luther and Huss, Wesley and Whitefield, Fox and Finney, and hosts of others, whose guiding star was the motto, “Rather death than false of faith.”
There are too many of them, and their lives are too well known—known and honored now, whereas once they were known only to be dishonored.“Reforms never were and never will be carried out without raising dust.”
John Wesley today stands before the world the spiritual father of thousands of active and earnest believers, but the halo of sanctity that surrounds him now has little likeness to the buffetings and hustlings, the blows and kicks and curses that were his portion in the open-air work by which his reformation was carried out.
Forbidden to teach or preach within parish limits, he went out in the gray morning, and there on the hill-side, in lonely places, in dens and caves, he met the throngs of the poor and despised, and broke for them the bread of life.
When stones and blows did not break up his little open-air, the people of Pensford drove a maddened bull in among them—a procedure that has often been imitated, though modified somewhat by the greater civilization of the nineteenth century.
No matter what branch of the Church is affected, no matter what the reform is, whether of vestments or doctrines, resistance is inevitable, and the more vital the reform, the more thoroughly old customs are to be changed, the greater will be the opposition of the world. This opposition presents itself under two forms, because the change made is always twofold:
“The dust of injustice in government, of formalism in religion, of “spiritual wickedness in high places” has slowly accumulated, until some one soul, fired with unquenchable indignation—the “Divine insanity of noble minds”—has thrown off all restraints of custom and society, and has stood out before the world in chosen isolation.”
First. The abolition of the old.
Second. The assumption of the new and unexpected.
It is the first of these changes that arouses the multitude. The Latin adage is true, Non Jit sine pulvere. Reforms never were and never will be carried out without raising dust. As Ruskin says, in speaking of the parable of the lost piece of silver,
“Dust has been accumulating for days, but now it is all stirred up; every one in the house is choked, and gets out of the way if he can; if he can’t, he gets provoked and scolds about the racket and the dust and the nuisance to everybody else, and very often says that the money isn’t worth the trouble, so long as the money isn’t his. So everywhere the charge against God’s work is that it is turning the world upside down. What an outcry to ‘let the world alone!’ But the faithful will not let the world alone, nor one soul be lost. It belongs to Christ, and is worth ten thousand worlds. Therefore let everything be stirred up, and everybody be tormented with the noise and the outcry, until the work is accomplished.”
In no plainer language has the first effect of reform ever been described, and never more comfortingly than in comparing notes on reform does the old refrain come back to us, “As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end,” and our hearts, as well as our lips, utter the Amen, so be it Lord.“There are always hundreds who feel as you feel, judge as you judge, and long to do what you long to do. Your action means theirs. Your cowardice and inaction means, alas! the hiding of God’s light a little longer.”
It has been so at every epoch of the world’s history. The dust of injustice in government, of formalism in religion, of “spiritual wickedness in high places” has slowly accumulated, until some one soul, fired with unquenchable indignation—the “Divine insanity of noble minds”—has thrown off all restraints of custom and society, and has stood out before the world in chosen isolation.
It has always been and always will be expedient that one man should die for the people, and he dies daily when, like Paul, or Luther, or Wesley, or General Booth, he conceives a world-wide scheme of reformation, knowing neither rest nor limit while the earth holds one soul who has not been shown the full light of the Sun of Righteousness.
The people who are asleep must be awakened; if not quietly, then noisily; those who have the same fire smouldering in their bosoms (and there are always a hundred of these where you expect to find one) must be taught that “the spirits are not finely touched but to fine issues,” and that to live below the best that they know is to drag the world and God’s work down and backward.“If you wait until the unconverted come to you and ask your prayers or your instruction, you will die disappointed. They will never do it.”
There are always hundreds who feel as you feel, judge as you judge, and long to do what you long to do. Your action means theirs. Your cowardice and inaction means, alas! the hiding of God’s light a little longer—long enough, perhaps, to allow thousands to go out of the world in error and into eternal darkness.
But here we are brought back to our parable again by the question, so often repeated, “Cannot the piece of silver be found quietly, without disturbing anybody?”
Yes, it can, sometimes when it is new and bright and shining, and reflects light readily; but not when it is old and weather-stained, and so begrimed with dust that you can see no difference between the silver and the rubbish that it is buried in.
Then you have Christ’s own command to sweep, and to sweep diligently. Raise all the dust you like; turn all the furniture—”the cares and riches and pleasures of this world”—out of doors; open the windows and let in all the pure light of heaven, and when you have done all that—made use of all natural means—take even the lighted candle, use all human expedients, even the lowest and weakest, and search the corners until the lost is found.
Mind you, there is nothing said about stopping until the work is done.
Christ did not say that the woman was to sweep a reasonable length of time and then let it alone, or that the shepherd might take a stroll on the mountain-side and call once or twice, and then let the sheep take the consequences.
No; the work was done before the parable stopped, and this work must be done before the laborer can rest.
It has been said before, and will bear saying many times, that if you wait until the unconverted come to you and ask your prayers or your instruction, you will die disappointed. They will never do it.
In their indifference they do not want to be saved, and they never will want to be saved until they are on their death-beds. Then they are willing to seek Christ, and talk about “giving up the world,” when it is the world that has given up them.
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