Heroines of Faith: Catherine Booth

Living for Others

Whether we consider Deborah (Judges 5:7) the deliverer of a nation in crisis, the wise woman (2 Samuel 20:16) who saved a city from slaughter, the unnamed little maid (2 Kings 5:3) who directed Namaan the leper to the prophet for cleansing, Abigail (1 Samuel 25:28) who averted David the king from self-avenging, or the woman (Mark 14:8) who did what she could, these heroines, known and unknown on earth, this is true: they were invaluable to the advancement of the kingdom of God in honor, truth, character, and devotion.

The woman in this consideration was marked by devotion, zeal, and godly ambition to honor her Lord; but this came with a price tag. This notable woman wove a pattern of good works for all to observe. Many will rise and call her blessed. She left a legacy to our world. That legacy could be summed up in one word: others. The life story of Catherine Booth is fascinating; she was a most remarkable woman when we consider her many infirmities, but she was a true overcomer, living a victorious life in adverse circumstances. Some might call it “pluck,” but it was “passion.” Some may say she was “forceful,” but it was “faith.”

We are moved in spirit as we ponder this delicate, oft-bedridden woman, who put her whole life in the hands of God. Though a fragile vessel, she was mightily used in noble and self-sacrificing service. She had a serious spinal condition and in addition to this she developed tuberculosis. She oftentimes had to lie flat on her back for long periods and this curtailed her education. In her confinement (before twelve years of age) with her brilliant mind she had read through the Bible eight times and this was in her unconverted days. Unable to attend school, she turned to reading theology and became intrigued reading Charles Finney’s Revival Lectures. This again was before conversion! There is no doubt God had His eye upon this young woman. At the age of seventeen she was convicted of sin and received Christ as Savior and Lord, an unforgettable day in her life that resulted in a complete change! In those days, conversion was not only an inward work of God, but a changed life! 0, for a return of this in our day! In her early Christian years with her bodily afflictions she commenced to write letters, and from her pen flowed messages to hundreds reaching every strata of society. She even had correspondence with Queen Victoria. She was an amazing witness for her Lord. She also learned on a sick bed the comfort of the Scriptures in her afflictions. The text on her wall spoke volumes to her all her life; “My grace is sufficient for thee.” Herein lay her strength to go on!

In the kindness of God she made some recovery in health and married a fine Christian man. This happy union resulted in four children. They both threw their hearts into reaching out to others. This motto became their watchword! Hundreds were reached for eternity as the result of their tireless activities. However the strain of labor resulted in her confinement to bed once again; for the moment she was crushed, but Romans 8:28 became her stay: “All things work together for good to them that love God.” In these extreme adversities she took up her pen and eternity alone will reveal the untold blessing that flowed to others in salvation, encouragement, and comfort. When she recovered, she was busy, tirelessly going from house to house in visitation, witnessing for her Savior and Lord. It is also noteworthy that they moved on the principal of faith in God to supply their daily needs, and with four children to feed they were tested. God never failed! This woman epitomized Romans 12:1-3.

With all her weakness of body the Lord blessed her with an indomitable spirit to face her future with confidence. When she received the shattering news at the age of 59 that she had cancer, the doctor gave her two years to live. It was a dark day in her experience. Her husband was broken and willing to cancel all engagements in his evangelical work to be with her, but she objected with these memorable words, “You will do no such thing. There are too many lost souls not ready to die, I am ready.” This amazing woman extended her interests to all classes of society but in particular to the poor, the drunkards, and the criminals. She was overwhelmed by the love of God that reached out to the derelicts of society, the untouchable and the unreachable! She loved to reach out to criminals! Nearing the end of life’s journey while tenderly cared for by her daughter she said, “Emma, don’t forget the criminal you spoke to in jail. Tell him your mother, when dying, prayed for him.” What passion! This God-fearing sister was Dorcas-like, full of good works. “Others” was her motto and they must be reached for eternity! Her husband, when crossing the Atlantic to speak to a large Christian convention in New York, failed to fulfill his appointment owing to a storm that delayed arrival. He sent a telegram from the ship to be read at the convention and the chairman read it to a full hall, one word only was written in bold letters; that word was “Others.” They were both like-minded. May this word “others” have a deep impact upon us all.

“The tears of the sower and the song of the reaper will mingle together in joy by and by.”

Some of her last words were; “The waters are rising but so am I. I am not going under but over! Don’t be concerned about dying; go on living well and dying will be all right.” As she twisted painfully in her bed she exclaimed with her lips, “Emma! There is plenty of time. I have no train to catch! I have nothing to catch now – only the chariot.” When she could speak no longer she pointed to the text on the wall, “My grace is sufficient for thee.” We surely can learn lessons from those who poured out their lives for God. On October 4th 1890 this fine, godly, and winsome Christian lady went over the river to meet her Lord.