Even the great Earl of Shaftesbury, a leader in the evangelical branch of the Church of England and an eminent social reformer, announced that after much study he was convinced the Salvation Army was clearly antichrist. One of the Earl’s admirers then revealed that in his own studies he had learned that the “number” of William Booth’s name added up to 666.
In Scripture and throughout Church History there are many examples of committed Christians who continued to faithfully, bravely carry out their God-directed ministries in the face of stiff or sometimes even fierce opposition. Not a few such Christians continue to do so around the world today. Their examples show us how to respond appropriately to such challenging situations and inspire us to be similarly brave and faithful with the Lord’s help.
William Booth, who founded the Salvation Army in 1877, is one such worthy model in this regard. Booth and the Salvation Army zealously proclaimed the Christian Gospel of salvation from sin and its deserved judgment through faith in Jesus Christ. They also ministered actively and compassionately to the material and moral needs of the lower classes of society. Tens of thousands of people were eventually helped and elevated through their ministries.
But initially Booth was repeatedly assaulted in the press by government and religious leaders alike. They attacked not only Booth’s unique evangelistic methods, but also his bold notions of how to bring about moral-social reform.
Professor Thomas Henry Huxley, a biologist and an agnostic who more than anyone had won public acceptance for Charles Darwin’s evolutionary theories, wrote twelve letters blasting Booth in the London Times. Huxley viewed Booth’s sway over his followers as being “the prostitution of the mind” and a worse evil than prostitution or alcoholism. He characterized Booth’s campaign to make people sober and hardworking as nothing more than a ruse to herd “washed, shorn and docked sheep” into his “narrow theological fold.”