JAC Online

Booth On The Bible
by Steve Bussey

In 1902, William Booth wrote on how critical the Bible is for Salvationists. His words ring more true today than ever before - and his absolute fidelity to Scripture as "the divine rule for faith and practice" (doctrine 1 of The Salvation Army) remains the single and only line in the sand which helps us "rightly divide the Word of Truth" (2 Timothy 2:15).


When our mission statement says that The Salvation Army's "message is based on the Bible" - the word "message" means it is the "fulcrum" the pivotal point, the foundation, the compass that "mediates" every single part of who we are as individuals and as an organization.


It is not an afterthought.


It is not meant to be toyed with.


It is authoritative.


It is without error.


It is not merely "reliable" - but rather it is the absolute final word on which every single detail that speaks to who we are, why we exist and to every single decision on how we go about life, work and mission. Scripture is our complete worldview. As John Wesley, who was known as "a man of one book" emphasized, Scriptural Christianity is THE foundation of Wesleyan-Holiness theology. And as William Booth followed in Wesley's footsteps shared his deepest convictions, we can boldly state that a Salvationist worldview is a biblical worldview in no uncertain terms.


We take this VERY seriously.


I will seek to prove this with reference to two messages from William Booth. Insights from Catherine Booth, Brengle and others will be saved for another time.


In 1885 following the publication of "The Revised Bible," Booth celebrated the importance of the words of Scripture being communicated in "the most desirable way which most nearly convey the meaning of the inspired writers to those to whom they may be now addressed." Then he boldly declared the importance of Scripture etching itself on the heart of true believers:

"I want to see a new translation of the Bible into the hearts and conduct of living men and women. I want an improved translation — or transference it might be called — of the commandments and promises and teachings and influences of this Book to the minds and feelings and words and activities of the men and women who hold on to it and swear by it and declare it to be an inspired Book and the only authorized rule of life.


That seems to me to be the only translation, after all, that will in the long run prove to be of any value. It is the reproduction of the Scriptures in men and women that makes their worth. The Bible is a book intended to make Bible-men and women — that is, good men and women. If the end is not gained, where is the value of the means? What will be the value of the Bible in the day of judgment apart from the transformations of character it has produced. It is of no use making correct translations of words if we cannot get the WORDS TRANSLATED INTO LIFE.


Now I have a great deal of fault to find with the present living translations – in the men and women who represent the Bible in their daily walk to the world. There are, beyond controversy, several most erroneous readings, some most serious imperfections — a large number of glaring errors. In many cases the living translation is not only unlike the original Book, but in direct contradiction to it.


This leads to most serious consequences. One of the great arguments for all the trouble and labor of the new translation has been that an odd passage here and there has been incorrectly given, and that this has led to some heretical opinions. But oh, my God! what heresies, what infidelities, what dreadful ruination of souls - wholesale and retail - have arisen from the false representations of Bible truth made in the lives of so-called Christians.


In the living translation every man who bears the name of Christ says thereby, "My life is a representation of Christianity." If a Muslim and a Buddhist came to live in your house, or to be your next-door neighbors, and you had not read their sacred books or listened to the descriptions of their religion as given by their advocates, you would reckon from what you saw of those men that you knew what their religion was. You would say, "I know what Islam is, and I know what Buddhism is. I have not got it out of their books, but I have been privileged to see it lived out before my eyes.


As you might very reasonably do with this heathen religion, so men do every day with regards to Christianity. And because these translations have been falsehoods and hypocrisies and shams, and altogether different from the originals, all manner of false and pernicious and damnable errors have crept abroad amongst men as to what real religion is. The translation and the revision have made it to appear a thing altogether unlike the original, and all manner of explanations and apologies are necessary to explain the glaring contradictions.


Now, my comrades, we must have a new translation. Every man and woman of us must set himself and herself to the task. Supposing we have got now a Bible correct in the letter, printed in a book, the reproductions of the mind of God so far as He has declared it to some of His people in days gone by; let us now have some equally correct reproductions of the mind of Christ — some actual flesh-and-blood translations — some living epistles inspired and empowered by the Holy Ghost, that can be read and known of all men.


I mean, let us Salvationists live out before men lives on which God has written out in big heavenly words His own notions of truth and righteousness and purity and patience and love and sacrifice. Christians for generations now have been spending an enormous amount of strength upon the Bible. They have done well in that duty; but it seems to me that with regard to the sacred Book something very important still remains to be done...


Such a translation, my comrades, will tell.


It will be victorious.


It will be triumphant."



Wow! You can't get more foundational than that! Are we true reflections of the living Word of God - operating within the guardrails of a God-breathed life shaped by the God-breathed Word of God - or are we "erroneous readings" and "glaring errors" in our present world?


Without Scripture being the very basis (foundation) of our message, we shift from the "rock" to the "sand" of our own whims and wishes - our personal experience, which is blinded by our natural inclination to place self on the throne - and rationalize our own compromised and captive state of sin-fullness. Scripture is the light that guides our feet on the right paths individually and collectively (Psalm 119:105).


We can never forget that foundation. We can never alter that foundation. Anyone who suggests and works to do otherwise is not only deluded, but dangerous! 2 Peter 3:16 reminds us that "those who are ignorant and unstable have twisted his letters to mean something quite different, just as they do with other parts of Scripture. And this will result in their destruction."


Let us hold fast to the wise counsel of General William Booth and, in no uncertain terms, remain steadfast to this great and holy heritage whose message is based on the Bible.



“The Bible is a very Wonderful Book… When we say the Bible, we mean that it is a book… above every other, that a person should know, treasure, and obey. If, to a wise man, the choice were offered of the Bible, on the one hand, or all the books in the world, on the other, he would choose the Bible...


The Bible has had a mighty influence for good in the world.

- It has won the hearts and enlightened the lives of millions.

- It has rescued the multitudes from the Horrible pit.

- It has led their feet to the Rock of Ages.

- It has filled their mouths with singing.

- It has kept them fading into Hell.

- It has guided them safely to Heaven.

The Bible has been more bitterly attacked and more cruelly slandered than any other book in existence. Again and again men have exerted every power to effect its destruction. But it has survived all opposition, and to-day is more widely circulated, and is probably more generally read, than ever before. Not all the powers of Earth and Hell combined have been able to destroy the blessed Bible.

- Bad men and women hate the Bible, denounce it, call it hard names, call in question its truths, and wish it were out of existence.

- Good men and women love it, read it, make it the guide of their lives, spread it abroad, and thank God for its precious pages.


The Truths written down and explained in the Bible have done wonders for Salvationists. What would you have been without them?


But for the free Salvation set forth in the Bible, many of you would have been in the grave, and your souls cast into outer darkness, while others would have been on their way there.


Oh, precious Book! What a priceless blessing it has been to The Salvation Army!


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 and all the time.


Publish the Salvation of the Bible wherever you go — in the streets — in the barracks [the Corps/Church] — in your home — 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, reading and knowing about the Salvation and Victory of which it tells, you do not enjoy that Salvation and experience that Victory."


Letters to Salvationists Chapter 23  <link>

The General's Letters Chapter 25  <link>














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