Sunday, 15 January 2012

Salvation Army at Work - 1885

“The prayer meeting last night was a scene of wild excitement and enthusiasm and any person unacquainted with army songs of praise would have been impressed with wonder at the tumultuous proceedings.”
                                             1885-02-02 Spectator
          There had been a lull in the success of the Hamilton Salvation Army in helping non-believers change their lives and give themselves to God.
          Salvation Army Captain Johnson, aided by Captain Miss Mills and Captain Miss Harvey came to a decision that what was needed was a mass prayer meeting and the local Salvation soldiers were told that they may well be asked to stay at the meeting all night to talk with those interested in professing their allegation to Jesus.
          For this major prayer meeting, many former Hamiltonians who were among the first to fund the Lord through the efforts of the Salvation Army and who had joined the army, were invited to return to the city for the meeting.
In the usual style, the prayer meeting was preceded by several marches through the downtown streets. As noted in the Spectator, the processions were remarkable well responded to despite the frigid temperature of a February day : “the marches were numerously attended and the band played spiritedly and in good tune, but the extremely cold probably prevented good singing on the streets”
An immense crowd of curious citizens followed the brass band and the soldiers marching in their colourful uniforms to the army’s barracks, where the hall was eventually filled to capacity.
The programme began with singing of many of the popular songs of the day, the lyrics of which had been changed to reflect Christian beliefs. Other hymns and well-known spirituals were part of the musical selections.
The Spectator reporter in attendance made the following judgments on which songs worked the best in his categories : “Hallelujah to the Lamb” – best chorus; “I Shall Never Know Sorrow Over There’” – softest hymn; “I Will Follow Thee, My Savior” – most pleasing solo.”
The Hamilton Times also sent a reporter to the prayer meeting. He observed that Captain Johnson sent soldiers right out into the audience to directly engage with those in attendance, trying to convince them to give their souls to God. The captain told the audience that the soldiers would stay all night praying for the lost in the audience if that is what was required.
The man from the Times noted that the soldiers working the audience had Captain Johnson sent soldiers out among the audience to convince them to give their souls to God had “tears streaming down faces as they implored God to ‘save the people’ ’’ and that “the whole scene was a most affecting one, and he would have been made of ‘stern stuff’ who would not have been impressed.”
The Spectator man wrote out a detailed account of how the prayer meeting worked : “
During this season of “old-time religion,” the earnestness in prayer was very intense, and sometimes painfully so. Occasionally, twenty or more soldiers would be praying at once; then all would be perfectly silent – supplication on the knees,
                   Send the power,
                   Send the power,
                   Send the power,
                   Jesus promises should come down.
This was repeated innumerable times. As each convert was brought forward, loud ejaculations of joy and praise were shouted, the soldiers immediately surrounding and exhorting God to save him. Upon the convert stating that he intended to serve God in the future, a tremendous song of joy was sung. The whole of this scene was largely participated in by one who formerly was a most successful Christian worker, but for the past two years has been living in a state of sin and infidelity through reading the works of Watts, Bradlaugh, and others. A week ago he chanced to call in upon an army meeting and sat laughing at the proceedings. The soldiers gradually obtained from him the particulars of his life, and then never ceased working upon him until his former state was restored to him. His gratitude to them is now unbounded.”
Many came forward to publicly profess their conversion to Christ amid shouts from the soldiers loudly proclaiming “Hallelujah!’” “ Bless Him!’” and “He Does Answer Prayer!”
While the prayer meeting did not last all night, it did last until well after midnight.
It was brought to a close with joyful handshakes between the soldiers and the gathered, between the newly converted and everyone, and between members of the audience who maybe had not gone forward to profess their conversion but who felt the joy of the meeting, and who maybe had a seed planted in their minds.
The soldiers and audience separated with the singing of “Praise God, From Whom All Blessings Flow!”

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