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the present case, however wise and good our leaders may be, mistakes occur, offences arise, injustice is sometimes done.
The Salvation Army thus presents one or two curious features. Composed of voluntary members, it is yet ruled after a military fashion. Its authorities ask obedience in all matters affecting its work and discipline, and yet cannot impose penalties, ecclesiastical or otherwise, for disobedience. They can only appeal to conscience, or to a sense of loyalty, or to a fear of ulterior consequences. They make large demands upon the main body of the Army, guided only by their own sense of jastice or fitness. Between authority, therefore, containing tendencies such as I bave described, aiming to be real, and yet in a large measure unable to enforce its demande---and the voluntary element subject to great pressure from above ; its rights unrecognised; without administrative powers; and yet able to free itself at will from authority — between these two, I say, how easily may conflicts occur! and with what disastrous results possibly!
A certain corps, where flourishing work used to be carried on, bas been almost ruined, because an impression gained ground in it that our authorities, in the matter of a bequest, acted unrighteously, though legally. I think I understand how it happened. Authority took one view of the matter, the local society another. Authority, of course, carried the day, and the local members, stung by a sense of what they considered injustice, and unable to defend themselves in a constitutional way, could only protest and leave. Now, if their position had been less one of mere subjection, and if they had been able to appoint one of their number to represent their case in some court, where the matter could have been calmly considered, there might have been a much happier ending to the dispute. As it is, the corps is wrecked and the good name of the Salvation Army destroyed throughout a whole district. Autocratic government may do fairly well in calm weather, but when storms arise there is only a step between autocracy and anarchy; and, whilst religious zeal has made a kind of truce between the autocratic and voluntary elements in the Salvation Army, there will have to be, for perpetual reconciliation, not only very judicious exercise of power on the part of authority, but also a wise recognition of the rights and privileges naturally associated with the voluntary element. In short, I think that the members of the Salvation Army ought to have some share in the administration of it. Perbaps it sounds absurd to speak of soldiers having a voice in the affairs of an army. In this case, however, it must be remembered that the soldiers of the Salvation Army help to build barracks and maintain officers as well as do the work. Practically, they (along with the public) provide the sinews of war—and fight the battles ! It seems just, therefore, that they should have power to deal with matters that affect their own societies, at the very least. Besides, if a person is given a regulating voice in anything, his interest is deepened, his sense of responsibility, quickened, and whatever of wisdom or experience he possesses is placed at the public service.
The Salvation Army is a religious denomination—nay, in what I believe to be a true sense of the word, a Church. When I was thinking over this article on two occasions lately, I happened both times to turn accidentally to passages in the Acts of the Apostles that refer to the position and power of the laity in the Church.* Referring to the latter passage, my Commentary (Dr. Ellicott's) says: “ It is probable
. . that the Ecclesia, or popular assembly, did not possess the power of initiating measures; but their right to vote appears, from this instance, to have been indisputable.”
The military system has certain obvious advantages as a working method. It ensures economy of time, dispatch, punctuality. But the multiplicity of regulations inseparable from it in a great organisation like the Salvation Army tends to mechanical action. Where so much is done by rule there is little room for personal initiative. Where so much effort has to be put forth, so many meetings to be held, &c., and where strict account has to be given of what is done, it is little wonder that work degenerates into routine pretty often. In obedience to rules carried out “not wisely but too well,” a few of us have sometimes gone out to “hold a meeting," with the quixotic intention apparently of converting bricks and mortar! And we have held forth and sang and banged our drum until one has been irresistibly reminded of Messrs. Qaince, Snug, Bottom & Co.'s immortal performances in the “Midsummer Night's Dream"—their earnest futilities, their serio-comicalities.
Exclaims Thoreau in one place, referring to his over-decorous youth: “What demon possessed me that I behaved so well?”
What demon possesses us that we behave so well ? ” Salvationists might ofcen cry as they consider the waste of time and energy arising from their obedience to regulations applied with slavish literality in circumstances where effort is practically thrown away.
We are apt to fix our attention upon great special features of the Salvation Army, such as the Social Scheme, the Slum Work, &c.; but we must go to the corps or societies wherein the ordinary work is carried on if we would test the quality of the movement, or seek to estimate its future possibilities.
It is in connection with them that the ceaseless efforts are put forth whereby the Salvation Army seeks to extend the Christian religion, increase its own store of spiritual power, add to its numbers, repair its losses. Now these societies very often reveal symptoms which must cause profound disquiet to thoughtful Salvationists, and which, if more generally considered, would nip in the bud that tendency to brag of our achievements and put a good face upon our failures that shows itself amongst us sometimes. They are subject to strange fluctuations in regard to numerical strength. We cannot help noticing the sudden decline of many, the speedy extinction of others. Whilst we are extending our operations on every hand, some of the established corps are in a parlous state.
* See Asts vi. 15; and Aits xv. 22.
One reason for this is the unstable moral and material conditions existing in the strata of society where much of our work lies. This we cannot avoid.
But there are other causes. Perhaps to the work of no religious body does the parable of the sower apply so aptly as to that of the Salvation Army. We are always sowing; we sow everywhere. We get all sorts of cases, those who have no root in themselves” as well as those“ in good ground," with perhaps a few knaves and cranks thrown in. And immediately we send them out into the streets with a literal flourish of trumpets. But afterwards, “when affliction or persecution ariseth,” many of them " are offended." The good remain, but the corps is reduced by one-half, and the public form their own opinions. There is surely room for caution, thoroughness, and some wise method of probation here?
Again, another cause is over-pressure. The demands in the Salvation Army, physical and otherwise, are very severe. During the average time of an officer's stay in one corps (which is six months) there are held about 400 indoor and outdoor meetings, besides much other work. A viaduct must not only be strong enough to bear the heaviest traffic, but, if it is to endure, must be much stronger. We however, seem to be working up to the extreme limit of our powers of endurance; we leave no margiu of strength; we lack some element of calm ; we have scarcely a green place for rest and recuperation.
might be applied to our religious world. When one comes to consider a hundred years of effort on present lines, curious thoughts arise. Already there are worn-out officers and almost worn-out corps.
The authorities are of course responsible for much of this overpressure.
Their aim seems to be to tax the time, energy, and giving capacity of the societies to the utmost. They are wondrously kind to their sinners, but very severe on their saints; and, whilst we believe that the reasons for the demands they make are right enough in themselves, that will not prevent the camel's back from being broken if the last straw is insisted on.
And now let us look at one or two phases of the financial administration. They used to sing in the music-balls:
"Why does the Salvation Army march the streets and play?
'Tis for money."
They don't do that now. The world is getting convinced about the integrity of our purposes as an organisation. True, there is still ridicule. We are still invited to “skin the donkey!” But they don't now insinuate that we stole that long-suffering quadruped !
So far as the societies are concerned, and taking into consideration their limited resources, our system must be called an expensive one. This partly arises from the fact that, as a rule, each corps however small has two stationed officers. In a division containing, say, twenty-five societies, the amount required for salaries will be some £2000 yearly. Then there are rents of halls, officers' quarters, and other local expenses, besides what is required by the authorities for general maintenance, &c. I calculate that at the least £4000 will be necessary to clear the working expenses in such a division, where there may be perhaps 2000 Salvationists. The fact that in many corps the officers cannot get in full the very modest salaries allotted to them emphasises what I have said about the expensiveness of the system. When we consider the poverty of so many of our members and congregations, there is, in view of what I have stated, good reason for the financial difficulties of our corps. In some the strain is serious and extremely harmful, and occasionally there is a condition of things where the officers are existing at very little above starvation-point. The divisional officer, it is true, has power to make money grants in cases of extreme need, when applied to for them. But officers are often reticent about making such applications. They know that the divisional exchequer is only scantily furnished, and have besides an impression, mistaken perhaps, that their doing so is an implied confession of incapacity. A "minimum wage " ought to be guaranteed to every officer ; but perhaps the true way out of the difficulty would be to amalgamate small corps that are reasonably contiguous; to work others by means of one officer to a corps instead of two, having some central quarters where several officers could reside together; to greatly extend the circle system, by means of which several small societies are worked by a pair of officers travelling from place to place ; and finally to use the most capable of the local members in a much greater measure than is at present the case for itinerant work. Some change is certainly needed, and even if under a new system so much effort could not be put forth as at present, that would be amply compensated by the removal of a blot from the Salvation Army; the saving in flesh and blood, in money, and in officers and members, who at present retire from the work altogether because they cannot stand its hardships, or are disgusted with the eternal beg, beg, beg ; and, again, in officers, who could then be working in the new fields that are continually being opened up. Then there is another aspect
of the financial question. Whilst many officers and corps are burdened as I have described, there are others seriously handicapped because we persist sometimes in erecting spacious buildings that are altogether beyond our means. The consequence is a crushing load of debt, and the devotion of much valuable time and energy in meeting severe obligations that ought never to have been necessary. We are a poor people, and had far better carry on our work in tents and sheds than indulge in erratic lapses from economy and sound finance. A great responsibility rests upon our leaders.
It. devolves upon them to a large extent to guide and develop a notable and beneficent movement that may last for ages, and it would be a great mistake to imagine that its organisation is already perfect. I have indicated some of our dangers, or what appear to me as such.
Three words indicate three of our greatest needs—thought, thoroughness, caution.
Our authorities would do well to institute a profound study of these and other needs and dangers, and of the ways whereby they may possibly be met.
There are spots on the sun ; there are defects in the Salvation Army. Bat there is one great fact that more than anything else gives us heart for tbe future. It has life-rich stores of spiritual power, a wide and deep possession of “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever.”
What I have written in this article has been on my own responsibility, though I have no doubt other Salvationists have had somewhat similar thoughts. One or two things I can say for others as well as for myself, however. We love the organisation of our choice ; through it we have obtained spiritual illumination ; in it we find many opportunities for doing good; and leaders who show in a practical way what self-denial means.
Looking outward, we are grateful for what has been accomplished. If the Salvation Army were to disappear to-morrow, there has been that of good wrought by its means in the lives of untold multitudes, which would surely earn for it a place in the memory of the world. Perhaps I, who am not a leader but an obscure Salvationist, may be allowed to say this for it.
But will it disappear to-morrow ? Will it endure ? Is the Salvation Army a sort of comet, obedient to high laws, yet destined to pursue a brief if brilliant course in the religious sphere, and then disappear for ever? Or will it take a continuing place amongst those other bodies which in their various orbits circle around the Cross as around a Sun?
Such thoughts occur to many, within the Salvation Army and without. I cannot answer them. Permanence depends on so many things, and I am not a philosopher.
I can only say-give us a fair field and a hundred years. At the end of that time, if all is well, we may compare notes.