Today's 'thought' comes to you from William Booth (1829–1912). He was a British Methodist preacher who founded "The Salvation Army" and became its first General (1878–1912). With much embarrassment I must confess that even into my late teen years I thought, "The Salvation Army" was given that name because it saved clothes to give to poor people. All I knew of this group was that they had big red drop-off bins in grocery store parking lots where people could place used items they no longer wanted. It wasn't until I studied church history that I discovered its Christian roots, and its evangelistic purposes, and specifically the fascinating life and vision of William Booth -- a man who was intent on living a well-rounded Christian life -- one that sought total consecration to the Lord, preached the Gospel, sought personal godliness or holiness, and sacrificed to help meet the needs of the less fortunate. Booth even started farms in the countryside of England where the homeless and unemployed of London were housed in "barracks," taught a trade, instructed in the Scriptures, and given food and work. But I will leave it to you to research his many accomplishments. Their ongoing charitable work speaks for itself.
This thought is a personal admonition (by way of a letter) to those who had joined "the Army." To follow it completely you need to know the denomination is set up in a somewhat military-like organizational structure (even to this day). Booth was the "General," and pastors were "officers," and others in the "Corps" were soldiers. He spoke to them all as his "comrades" in the work of the Gospel (thus the greeting of the letter and parts of its content).
The letter tells them how they as Salvationists should view the Bible, though we would all do well to heed his words -- especially those of us who have, like them, come to experience the salvation of which it speaks. Enjoy.
I desire to offer you some counsel about the Bible. You all know that the Bible is a very important Book, and I have no doubt you set great weight in it. Indeed, I am pleased to learn that, of late, more thought is being given to its pages than ever throughout the Salvation Army. But still, I am afraid that the precious Book does not receive the attention that it demands.
Let me try to say a word or two that will be likely to better impress upon you its great value. The Bible is a very wonderful book. It's very name signifies this, for the word 'Bible' simply means 'the book,' so that when we say the Bible, we mean that it is The Book; the book which, above every other, a man should know, treasure, and obey. If a wise man were offered the Bible on the one hand, or all the books in the world on the other, he would choose the Bible... Oh precious Book! What a priceless blessing it has been to The Salvation Army.
Now, my comrades, I want to ask this question: What ought you to do with the Bible? Ought you to neglect it -- pass over it for the newspaper, the story book, or other rubbish? By no means. That is how the godless world around you deals with the precious treasure.
What, then, ought you to do? I will tell you. The very least that you can do with the Bible is read it. If I, as your General, sent you a letter, you could not do less than read it over, try to understand it, and strive to do what I requested in it. The Bible is a letter from your Heavenly Father; you cannot do less with His letter than you would do with one from your general.
Next, read it alone. Read a few verses at a time. Read them on your knees. Read them as you walk the streets, while you take your midday meal, when you rise in the morning, when you retire at night, and read the blessed book in your spare moments. Read it in your families. Impress its precious truths on your children (if you are parents). Explain them to the ignorant -- make them understand.
See to it that you experience in your own hearts the blessings the Bible offers you. Remember, it will be little better than a curse to you if you only know the Word, and do not possess and live in the spirit of it. If you only 'believe' it with your head and do not enjoy the things that it describes and accept the mercy, wash in the fountain, receive the Holy Ghost, and live and die in the light and joy of its good tidings, then it will only add to your condemnation and guilt.
In the same way, fulfill the duties it commands. It is the doers of the Word who are blessed. Make it the guide of your life -- at home, abroad, in your Corps, in sickness and health, in joy and sorrow, everywhere you go -- in the streets, in the barracks, in your home, and at your work; everywhere, tell the glad tidings.
Oh, my Comrades, do not let the Bible rise up in judgment against you, as it surely will if you either neglect it, or if in reading and knowing about the salvation and victory of which it tells, you do not enjoy that salvation and experience that victory."
His words are nothing but wise, godly, common sense advice from a Christian leader to his followers.
We would do well to take his words to heart -- for the sake of a greater consecration to Christ,