1882 Description of the Salvation Army

Dec 1882

December 21, 1882 (The Commonwealth, a newspaper of Scotland Neck, NC, 1st page, 3d and 4th columns)


[Written for the Commonwealth]

The Salvation Army in England has attracted much attention, especially within the last six months. Americans have viewed it as the offspring of a sect of religious enthusiasts, and have considered it as one of the natural outbursts for saving souls which take place periodically. They have regarded it merely as a natural consequence of religious fanaticism, and like all other outbursts of a similar nature doomed to a speedy downfall. Such, however, seems not likely to take place in this instance; for their operations are meeting with the greatest success, and there are some powerful managers connected with it, else it would not have assumed such proportions. It has not yet reached its acme; but is spreading like wild-fire over England, and even our own land has been invaded by these modern crusaders.

Detachments of them have come to our shores, and are now in several parts of our country. As it approaches us, and we are likely to be effected [sic] by it, it is pertinent that we should learn something of what the Salvation Army is.

It was originated in England about seventeen years ago by Geo. Booth, formerly a Methodist minister, who is now its head. Their creed, so they say, is the old fashioned gospel. Everything is conducted on military principles. They have their officers of all grades and the regular privates, and call themselves “soldiers.” They are divided into corps, and each corp [sic] is officered as a military corps. Oh, they are veritable soldiers! at least from outward appearances.  They have now over 300 corps, 700 officers, over 15,000 working privates, who are ready to talk at any time, and their income amounts yearly to over three hundred thousand dollars.

Their methods of conducting their work is peculiar, and exceedingly interesting to one who has a taste for the ridiculous. We quote a scene taken from a contemporary paper in which their manner of conducing a meeting is clearly set forth:  “The group of workers who have arranged to hold a meeting take their places on a platform, and enter into the services with a fervor both of mind and body, loud shouts by the leader mingling with the prayers and exhortations poured forth. As the time goes on the excitement increases, and soon one and another of the hearers yields to the spirit of the occasion, sometimes crying aloud to know what to do to be saved, and not unfrequently [sic], especially in the cases of women, falling upon the floor and rolling back and forth in a sort of frenzy. When the excitement is at its height a spectator who should suddenly enter the ‘barracks’ might well be excused if he should fancy that he has by mistake strayed into a lunatic asylum, reviewed the scene, as the captain and other members of the army loudly pray and sing, and the converts no less vociferously respond. Not the least curious among the remarkable features of the occasion is the array of trophies depending from a cord hung across the back of the stage, which consists of a remarkable collection of feathers, ear rings, and sundry other articles which have been surrendered by converts when they renounced the world.”

It may be all right; from our knowledge of the principles on which this movement is conducted we do not hesitate to predict that working of more evil than good. There is a misconception altogether in its get up, and must sooner or later result in error and evil. It has resolved itself into a religious passion, and has assumed the shape of the wildest fanaticism. No passion is there but what impairs this sense of right, and interferes with the discharge of duty. From an ethical standpoint it is wrong. Though religious enthusiasm when carried to excess is to be preferred to a stolid indifference, yet it is not to be compared to the piety governed by reason found in the church. And it is against the church the Salvationist vents his wrath, charging it with inefficacy. We learn from those who have had opportunities of judging, that there is one element in the Salvation Army which is strongly indicative of failure, i.e., a lack of reverence. “Reverence is the very heart of religion; and without it, religion becomes blasphemy.”

Summing it all up we doubt very much the efficacy these methods have in saving souls. And we think the name Salvation Army should be changed, as some one suggests, to religious rowdies.



*I think that was the inscription at the end of the article.


About Kindra

Executive Director for Quaker House, bringing a little bit of peace through counseling and support to military members and their families.
This entry was posted in How to Be Good, Religion and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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