How did Kate Lee take her holidays? What spirit moved her when the pressure of responsibility for her particular charge was removed; when professionalism was, for the moment, dropped? 'Tell me about her holidays?' I asked of an old lieutenant.
She replied: 'I never knew Adjutant Lee take a holiday in the usual sense of the word. If she furloughed in London, much of her time was spent in visiting her converts; if at the seaside, her Bible notes accompanied her thither, to be revised. A few years ago she and I spent a few days together in the country. For months the Adjutant had been working at very high pressure; she was too tired to read or write, but not too tired to meditate upon God and His goodness. Those five days are a precious memory to me because of the interchange of thought we enjoyed.'
So that officers may take their brief furlough without attracting attention to themselves, or receiving unlimited calls for service, they lay aside their uniform. The only 'private' clothing that Kate allowed herself were two or three white blouses, a panama hat for summer, and a blue felt for winter. These she wore, with her uniform blue serge skirt and 'three-quarter' jacket. When on holiday, she often travelled in her uniform so as to have more opportunities for blessing the people.
'Tell me about Kate's holidays,' I asked, still curious of Commandant Lucy Lee. Into her eyes stole a faraway look, and after some hesitation, came vague answers.
'Well,' she began, 'last year we had our holiday together, preparing the Home of Rest at Ramsgate; the year before, Kate came to me in France. We had a lovely time visiting the hospitals and camps together; but, of course, it was not exactly a rest. And the year before that we spent them fixing up this little home. We did enjoy that. And the year before that? -- -- '
Something else unsatisfactory to my way of thinking. 'But tell about a nice restful holiday at the seaside, or in the country where, out in the open, Kate just unwound and was refreshed for her work.'
'Well' -- Lucy half closed her eyes and smiled wistfully -- 'somehow there always seemed something to prevent plans like that. So long as we could be together and have a quiet time, we were perfectly happy.'
Until the end of her life, a certain insularity clung to Kate Lee. She gloried to fight in a crowd, but she could not rest with a crowd. When set free from duty, all she longed for was some quiet corner with the protecting love of her sister -- that love which perfectly understands and makes no demands -- filling the days with tenderness. As her sister suggests, something generally turned up that made arrangements for real rest and change difficult to arrange. On the face of things, we might judge that in this particular Kate Lee's usual common sense and good management failed her; but to one who has seen behind the scenes, into the hidden life of this remarkable woman, it would appear, rather, that in the matter of rest, as in other affairs touching her temporal happiness, God shut her up to Himself and taught her, first for her own joy, and then through her life taught others the possibility of having nothing, and yet possessing all things.
During one furlough, Kate determined to feel for herself the conditions of the very poor. To this end she spent a night amongst the women who frequent our Women's Shelter in the East End of London.
Dressing in rags, she went to the door, paid her pence for a bed, passed into the long dormitory and, flattering herself that she was so well got up that she would not attract attention, sat down beside her bunk. But soon she discovered that she was the centre of discussion.
'Poor thing, she's not used to this,' mumbled an old woman, steadily surveying her. Presently another, remarking that she would need some supper, offered her a mug of tea; another, a piece of bread. She accepted the bread, but said she was not thirsty, only tired, and would go to bed. She proceeded to lie down with her clothes on. Now the women were sure she had never been there before. 'Oo ever 'eard tell of agoing to bed wif close on?' they remarked in loud whispers. But seeing the poor, tired thing would not be advised, they pitied her, told her the most comfortable way to lie, and left her alone.
The details of that long night remained clear in the Adjutant's memory. The miserable seared days of these women were echoed in their sleep. Groans; curses; snatches of song; angry or weary talk, with heavy breathing troubled the night. Oh, the sorrows that follow in the wake of sin; it pressed upon Kate Lee's heart until it felt like breaking.
With the first streak of dawn she rose, and noiselessly stealing out, escaped into the street. She felt cold and sick. Standing at a corner, she hailed a bus. The driver gave her a glance and drove on. She hailed another and another, but none would stop. They did not want to carry such as she. At last she managed to board a street car, and the passengers eyed her as she crouched in a corner. She knew, perhaps for the first time, what it really meant to be poor, and hungry, and despised. From that morning she believed that the very poor suffer more in spirit than in body, and she used her experience powerfully to plead their cause.
One of her furloughs was spent in Sunderland. That visit is still the talk of the corps; it seemed that in those few days she laid a hand of love upon all. And how full was Kate's heart of grateful joy when she turned homeward. One of her most wonderful trophies, after fighting a splendid fight for years, had slipped back into the depths of sin. She found him desperately ill and wretched; drew him back to the Saviour; saw him restored and comforted, and held his hands as he waded the river of death, till his spirit reached the other side. Then she buried his mortal remains.
Her longer furloughs, those occasioned by illness, found her the same loving, watchful, ministering spirit, as when in health. After the operation, which followed her farewell from the field, she spent a few days in hospital. Suffering much, and unable to sleep, still she noticed that one of the nurses wore a sad expression. Waiting until she came to attend to her at midnight, she engaged her in conversation, and, spiritual specialist that she was, got to the root of the nurse's trouble. She had lost faith and her life was sadly clouded. At midnight. while others slept, in that palace of pain, Kate led her nurse to the Saviour.
Later, at the Officers Nursing Home at Highbury, London, she shared a room with an officer from India, and delighted in this unexpected way to come in closer touch with our missionary work. As health returned, the two officers talked India to their hearts' content. The major from the East confided her fears, that the little girls of the Industrial Home she had just left would miss their Christmas this year. 'Do not worry about it, they shall have their dollies,' replied the Adjutant. As soon as she was able to write, she sent letters to many friends, begging for dressed dolls in time to reach India by Christmas. Fifty dollies take some getting, and the number was still incomplete when the Adjutant arrived at the Bexhill Home of Rest. An officer who was resting in the Home writes: --
She was just a shadow, sweet, mostly silent, with a cheerful, heartening smile. The officers saw in her the visible proof that unrestrained service pays; that God gives good recompense for all that is done for Him. The Adjutant's quiet enthusiasm roped in ready assistance, and in good time, the dollies, beautifully dressed and packed, with additional tiny surprises were ready. She could well have been excused from such spending of time and effort, but it never dawned on Kate Lee that she needed to be excused. She gave all the time without effort, without knowing that she gave; to her it was just life. To those officer-comrades who assisted her, however, she was all gratitude. It was so splendid, she said, that they, being weary, should volunteer to do this sewing for the little Indian girls. She only saw their work, she never glimpsed her own, so utterly unselfish was her spirit.
The Adjutant had hoped that her retirement from the battle's front might only be for a short time; but the nasal trouble was deep-seated, and her general health was atfected. She needed a course of surgical treatment, and it was arranged for her to rest in London.
Her experience somewhat resembled that of the apostle Philip, when he was caught up from the joys of a revival and set down in a desert. It was an experience difficult to understand, for her to retire, sick and wounded, to the rear, when there was so much to be done at the front of the battle, so much that she might do. But we have seen how she had fought the battle out, and she entered 'the desert,' her heart at peace with God, ready to accept any small opportunities for service that might come her way.
She was too frail to attend meetings, but she took up her pen, and having leisure for the first time in her Army career, revelled in the opportunity of writing for our periodicals. Each paper received helpful contributions. In a brief article which appeared anonymously in 'The Young Soldier' we catch a glimpse of her happy spirit at this time: --
Sometimes I go to visit men who are in jail, and try to make them see that Jesus cares for them though they have done wrong. Then they talk to me. Some have told me about the mice in their cells. When they feel lonely, the prisoners are glad to have the company of even a little mouse. I am a prisoner just now, although I am not made to stay in a cell; but when an Army officer is shut away from all the poor people she loves and wants to help, it seems very much like being in a prison; but I have some little friends who come to cheer me. At least, I think they look upon me as their friend, for they come to my window and peep in at me so knowingly. Then I open the window very gently and they wait until I put some scraps from my plate on the sill, and then they have such a feast.
One of my little sparrow friends is partly blind. He only seems able to see out of one eye. I guess he has been in some fight and got the worst of it. It seems very bad for a bird to fight and have to suffer; but then he did not know any better, and perhaps he was fighting an enemy bird who tried to hurt his family. One day, when I was watching my sparrow friends on the sill, to my surprise I saw a little mouse pop out of the ivy which hangs round my window. Very quickly he picked up a piece of fat that I had put there for the sparrows, and then ran off so fast; and, what do you think? he brought another little mouse with him. Now they come along about the same time each evening, just when the birds are having their supper. I know that mice like to sip milk, and once I dropped just a little milk on the window-sill for them. Oh, how they enjoyed it! You would have laughed to see what they did after that; they sat up, and rubbing their wet hands together, made what looked like a soapy lather, and washed their faces.
Some small children make a fuss if only their lips are washed after a meal; they do not seem to care how sticky they are; but my mice do, they like to be clean and tidy. God's tiny creatures teach us many lessons, and if you little ones are wise you will try, as great King Solomon advised, to learn something from them all.
The daughter of the house in which Kate Lee had taken rooms, attracted her. Commandant Lucy Lee lent the girl the two volumes of 'Catherine Booth: the Life of The Army Mother,' which she read with delight. In the loving, eager spirit of this school girl, Ina, Kate detected something which reminded her of her own early longings. All her spiritual mother- love went out to Ina, and she led her into the Kingdom of God, and then step by step along the way of the Cross and the highway of holiness.
It was some time before permission was gained for the new convert to become a Salvationist, but gradually the parents began to recognize the beauty of a life wholly yielded to God, and became willing for their daughter to go Kate Lee's way, and all the way. Kate did not make things easy for this new recruit. When she saw the spiritual light burning brightly in her soul, and the heavenly vision leading Ina to visit the saloons, she encouraged her, and frail though she herself was, she introduced her to the best way of doing this work. An anonymous article written to 'The Warrior' shows how this corps cadet learned to fight: --
Ina's heart was filled with a great longing. She was tired, yet not satisfied, at the end of a busy Sunday. Going to and from the meetings, teaching a company of Juniors, seeking souls in the prayer meetings, and yet how little she seemed to be doing when the need was so great.
Then a voice said, 'Go to the saloons, and try and win some poor drink-slave for Jesus.' How could she obey? She had never darkened the doors of such places. Brought up in a sheltered home, she had never seen the sad effects of drink, nor all the miseries that follow in its train. But the call had come, and months ago she had promised to follow where Jesus led. Securing a bundle of 'War Crys,' Ina started off, trembling at the thought of her venture. As she reached the first drink-shop with its startling sign, 'The Tiger,' the idea of entering it seemed to her agitated mind as impossible as to attack such a ferocious beast. The suggestion of leaving such a task for an older and more experienced comrade was natural; but no, the call had come; there must be no retreat. So with a prayer for wisdom and strength, she stumbled through the darkened entrance, and as the door swung open, a blaze of light dazzled her eyes. Such a sight met her fearful gaze! Men drinking, women huddled together supping the stuff that is cursing the homes and blighting the lives of little children. The whole atmosphere was repelling. The tobacco smoke, the sickly smell of beer, and the coarse jests that fell upon her ears; but her spirit rose to the attack in the name of the Lord, as the boy David of the Bible had faced the giant.
There was a sudden hush as the crowd looked at this uniformed girl in an out-of-the-way district, and the murmur went round, 'Salvation Army.'
'Yes,' said the corps cadet, 'and I have come to ask you to buy a "War Cry."'
'We don't want war, Miss; we've had too much already.'
'Yes,' answered the cadet, 'but the outcome of the Salvation War means an everlasting peace.'
The word peace seemed to change the atmosphere. 'We know you're all right,' a voice answered. 'You mean well. Here's a penny, miss.' And then another, and yet other hands were stretched out for a paper.
Whilst she was handing round the papers, Ina's heart was going up to the Lord in prayer that each might be the means of blessing, and even directing some soul into the way of life. Then with a kindly smile and a hearty 'God bless you,' she passed out and into another bar. Here sat a military man drinking with his wife. 'Will you buy a "War Cry"'? she asked. 'No,' came the rough answer. Then turning to the wife, an appeal was made. In a nervous, confused way the woman bent her head low, and sought for a penny for the paper. The husband seemed touched by his wife's action which may have called to mind their better days. 'Well, miss, I couldn't buy a "War Cry," as I like my beer, and I don't want to be a hypocrite.' But the cadet told him he could read a 'War Cry' even if he did like his beer, but she prayed in her heart that it might be the means of making him hate his beer.
The man and woman read interest and love in the young face, and as she left the place, with a 'Good-night, and God bless you,' the words echoed after her.
Crossing the road with renewed energy, she was soon within the doors of 'The Little Bear,' which was known as one of the roughest houses of that quarter. Sitting in the corner was an old man whom she asked to buy a 'War Cry.'
'Yes,' he answered warmly, 'after what you did after the air raid last week, I should think I would.' Sitting huddled in another corner was a poor, wretched 'drunk,' ragged, dirty, and woe-begone. Seeing the Salvationist, and before she had opportunity of offering him a 'War Cry,' he held out a penny saying, 'Here, give us one; I like you people.' Before she left he was made to feel that The Army loved such as he -- and who knows the result of that word?
'The Lion' had still to be attacked, but Ina had the value of her experience in 'The Tiger' and 'The Bear,' and no longer trembled. It was not all smooth sailing. We are not told if the lions in Daniel's den lay down perfectly still, or whether some came close to him, sniffing and snarling; but we are told that they were powerless to hurt God's child. Even in this vile place the devil could only go 'so far.' His servants seemed forced to give respect to God's messenger in spite of themselves.
The saloon-keeper's wife appeared on the scene and bought a 'Young Soldier.' Ina was quick to enrol her as a customer, and now, week by week, 'The Young Soldier' is handed to her little daughter with the prayer that her father and mother may be led to God. As Ina enters the saloon bar there is a respectful hush and the little missionary is able to sow the seed. A soldier is accosted who is on leave from the trenches. He tells of his troubles, of that terrible battle when he felt his need of God. Before she leaves him a tear is seen, as he promises to seek God. Many such incidents are happening week by week as she goes on her round. Only eternity will reveal the outcome of such efforts.
Is there another corps cadet who should take up this work?
Corps Cadet Ina writes of the influence of her spiritual mother upon her life: --
After I had become a Salvationist and longed to work as she had worked, she accompanied me to teach me the art of successful 'saloon-raiding.' She made several bar frequenters special cases. Sometimes she got them to give her their names, and these went on our special prayer list. We had cases in the saloons as well as the bar. If she could induce them to give their addresses, she would take me with her to visit them in their homes, or would keep in touch with them by writing. We had several conversions.
As we walked from one place to another, she would impress upon me the importance of keeping in the spirit. 'It is not merely selling "The War Cry,"' she would say; 'it is the grand opportunity of dropping words for God.'
As we see this warrior broken in health, undergoing continual treatment of a very painful nature, yet week by week accompanying the corps cadet to saloons in a district outlying the ordinary activities of an Army corps, we realize the truth of The General's words: --
Her appetite grew by what it fed on. She loved sinners from the beginning, but she went on until she could not live without them. She was insatiable. Her soul could not be satisfied in any other way. She was always working for souls, seeking souls, knocking at the doors of mercy for souls, loving souls.
The corps cadet continues: --
I thank God for sending her into my life. For years she was The Salvation Army to me, all I knew of it; and years before I was permitted to go to a Salvation Army meeting, I had determined that God and The Army would have all my life.
Her life was wonderful. Even though ill and on rest she had a plan for every hour of the day. Sometimes she would visit the people. If they disappointed her she would try the harder to win them. She was always hunting round to help families in need.
She spent a great deal of time in writing, and when I would persuade her to leave her desk and come for a walk, she would give me what she termed, 'Field Drill.' Oh, those talks; how I treasure the memory of them! On one of the last occasions she said to me, 'The sins of the world will do one of three things for you; they will either harden your heart, or break it, or soften it. I want you to have a soft, tender heart.'
Sometimes she would commend me; but, as a true friend, she would also reprimand me when I needed it, yet always in love, showing me where I might be better. She taught me how to study the Bible, and infused into my heart some of her love for it. 'I mean to make the Bible my one book. It is one of my New Year's resolutions,' she told me at the beginning of this year, and at the same time mentioned a new idea which would make study of the Word of God more easy.
She taught me by example, as well as by what she said, to conquer by prayer.
When she was not writing articles or revising subject notes, she wrote letters to those she had been the means of blessing. Beautiful letters they were; sometimes she delighted me by dictating them and letting me type them for her.
Although she found her long periods of rest trying because of her great love for souls, she maintained a bright, beautiful spirit, and had a smile whenever one saw her. She compared her last few years to a long dark tunnel, and just before she died, when anticipating her new appointment, she said, 'I really believe I'm coming to the end of it at last.'
Surely one of the most beautiful pictures in Kate Lee's life is here. Ill, in a sense alone and amongst strangers, yet triumphant, filling the days with any little services that came to her hand, performing them as faithfully as she had performed her field duties in the glare of the limelight, and seeking to bring into one young life the spirit that would give to the world a warrior after her own heart, against the day that her own feet could no longer be swift and beautiful for God.
AT HER DESK
In John Wesley's house in the City Road, London, is a small room which was built expressly to be the prayer-chamber of the Founder of Methodism. When I entered the small sitting-room of one of Kate Lee's field quarters, I was conscious of feelings of reverence similar to those which possessed me in Wesley's prayer-room. There she had wrestled and prayed, planned and studied, written and interviewed callers who sought her help. It was holy ground.
The sitting-room of the little home which she enjoyed for the last two or three years of her life, was a reflex of her character in modesty, simplicity, and usableness. A soft green paper covered the walls, dark lino the floor, a rug or two here and there; a writing-desk, book-case, a cottage piano, a couple of easy chairs, and a couch completed the furniture. On the walls and mantleshelf were Army photos, a print of Christ at prayer; a few treasures, 'with a meaning' (her sister explains), picked up here and there as mementoes of her furloughs; a small French bronze of Jesus carrying His cross; a petrified bird's nest, which has served as an object lesson in children's meetings, and so on.
This quiet room was the dearest of retreats to Kate Lee. Here, with her sister, who anticipated her every wish and lavished love upon her, she shut the door upon the world with its turmoils, and gave herself up to study and rest. Her books were her greatest treasures. In them she enjoyed the company of the greatest and best of souls, who believed as she believed, fought for the things she counted worth while, and triumphed as she was endeavouring to triumph.
Her bookshelf contained, perhaps, one hundred volumes in all; chosen, as were all her small possessions, with an eye to the highest values.
A notebook furnishes a list of the books she read during her field service; they included The Founder's and The Army Mother's works, Finney's 'Revivals,' many biographies, Meyer's 'Bible Characters,' and more thoughtful studies such as Butler's 'Analogy.' How she had managed time for reading during those busy, rushed days, is revealed in a reply to a young officer who had consulted her on self-improvement. She wrote, 'I trained myself to read one chapter of some good book every day.'
To sit at the desk where Kate Lee had worked, open its drawers and draw out the contents, was to discover on everything the stamp of the principles which had governed her life. Everything was in perfect order. Here is her diary, a memorandum of coming events and engagements fulfilled; and her accounts. Here a locked box; in it a tiny leather bag, holding the balance of her 'Lord's money,' with a reference to her diary for the exact amount due; also the covenant mentioned elsewhere. A much- worn 'Where Is It?' contains a record, with shorthand remarks, of every address she had delivered, in alphabetical order of the place where she had spoken. She commenced these entries at her second corps, nearly thirty years earlier, and by reference, could ascertain in a few minutes the addresses or lectures she had given on Holiness, Salvation, Social, or other subjects, whether in Sunderland, Brighton, Croydon, Thetford, or elsewhere. For her there was no unpleasant wondering as to whether she might repeat her subject on a return visit anywhere.
Kate had a peculiar shyness and reserve regarding her subject-notes. They were sacred to her; she had received them on her knees 'in the mount,' often in loneliness and tears. Commandant Lucy drew out from her sister's desk three half-leather, locked volumes. She handled them gently, smiled and hesitated a moment, 'No one but Kate has ever opened these,' she said. 'Sometimes I used to tease her, and pretend to take one up, but no, until the end that was not allowed.'
A key was inserted in one of the books, and it fell open. Treasure trove indeed! Six hundred pages of most carefully prepared subject-notes and illustrations on every imaginable topic that might appeal to the soul. Every page an example of method, care, and good taste.
Under bold, red headings, in her shapely, flowing hand, the various subjects are classified, and set out. The second volume is similar; the third is only half filled, and turning to the end it seems as though she anticipated that this was to be her last book, for there are personal notes and entries on the chief events of her life. The latter begins, 'Born August 3, 1872; born again September 17, 1885. First bonnet, Alexandra Palace, 1887; Trade Headquarters, November 20, 1889. Commissioned Lieutenant, June 20, 1890. Chalk Farm Training Garrison, June 19, 1892.' Then follow her appointments till the last, which appears in pencil, when she was 'Awaiting appointment.'
There are mottoes she chose on New Year's Day for many years. Among the number are 'Keep thy Soul Diligently'; 'Deal Courageously and Deal with the Ones '; 'Obey, Bear, Seek'; 'Stand by the Flag.'
The first of the subject-notes in the last of the volumes deals with Barabbas. One sees him in the dungeon, a thief, a terror. There is a picture of the world in his day. He is called to die. Christ appears. Christ dies for Barabbas.
The next notes are on 'Life. How to view it. The Servant; the Mistress; the Workman; the Master; the Soldier; the Sergeant; the Local Officer; the Officer.'
Ezekiel seemed to have gripped the Adjutant's imagination during the last year of her life; she had prepared several powerful addresses from his prophecies.
'Paradise Lost' and 'Paradise Regained' provides thought for several closely-packed pages. Then follow a series of addresses to young people on Good Behaviour. I. At Home. II. In the Street. III. In The Salvation Army Citadel. IV. Toward the Opposite Sex. V. On Tobacco. VI. Reading.
There are comprehensive notes on Christianity.
Notes of a Session at the College for Staff Officers.
Twenty closely written pages on the Bible. How written? Why so called? Written by whom? Notes on each book. Translations, etc.
Madam Guyon on prayer.
Many pages on 'Preaching' being expressions from master preachers, showing how to capture the souls of men.
To fill over one thousand pages with careful, close writing, took time. But Kate Lee did no fancy work; she never gossiped; she kept no pets; she did not even 'garden'; she seldom went for a walk except on a mission. She cared only for those things that would forward the Kingdom of God, and while some played with shells and made sand castles that a day's tide swept away, she delved in the King's mines, finding precious things wherewith to serve the Holy War.
Kate gathered in order to give out again. Her gift of expression was small at the beginning, but she so stirred it up and improved it, that, with increasing ease, she was able by both spoken and written word to express her thoughts in simple, direct English that reached hearts. The knowledge grew upon her that she would not always be able for public work, and she determined to prepare herself to appeal to souls by her pen. In her last letter to her sister, she wrote: --
There are one or two things I would like you to see to for me. In the cupboard, under my writing-desk, you will find some articles I have written. No.1. 'Temples of Fire.' It is a subject that has been upon my soul for a long time. I did not offer this series for publication as I intended to shape it up again. I hardly know if the articles will be considered worth accepting; but if something could be done with them, I should be glad.
There is another series I was trying to write on 'The Master's Locals.' You will also find, 'The Story of Jesus,' and 'Thoughts about the Cross,' and several other little articles. I am afraid none of them are up to the mark, but if anything could be done with them to help souls, I should rejoice.
These manuscripts show how she spared herself no pains to prepare a message. Over and over again she would draft a sentence, a page, or an article until she felt the message to be arresting. Then she sent it forth with much love and prayer. When it appeared in print -- often anonymously -- sometimes under her name or initials, she delighted and wondered that God gave to her the broad platform of The Army publications. The following articles, both of which appeared in 'The War Cry,' indicate something of the fresh, crisp heart messages that she gave to saint and sinner from her platform. When pressed by editors of The Army publications for an article, she took some hours from her sleep in order to prepare them for the press. Kate did not speak from notes. She had in her Bible a few headings on a sheet of paper, but having prepared her subject with great prayerfulness, after reading the Scriptures she left the reading desk, and in the simplicity and earnestness of her pure soul, freely gave out her message.
A GLORIOUS CLEANSING
The story of the leper is, to my mind, one of the most wonderful stories in the Bible, as it so forcibly illustrates how God looks upon and deals with sin. Leprosy was in the days of Christ an acknowledged type of sin, and we see in the condition of the leper a picture of its utter loathsomeness.
I fancy I see the poor fellow outside the city gate -- cut off from his home and friends.
But they do not forget him, and each morning some loved one -- a mother, perhaps -- at an early hour comes to the gate and there places a little basket of provisions sufficient for his needs of the day. Then she goes away, and from a distance watches the poor creature draw near, and take the much-needed food. One morning the basket must, I fancy, have contained, in addition to the food, a message which, as the poor leper reads, brings a ray of hope into his wretched, weary life.
The note tells of Jesus, the wonderful Christ, who is going about healing all kinds of incurable diseases, and even raising the dead to life.
'Oh, if only you could see Him! If only you could get near enough to Jesus, there might be a chance for you, my poor boy!' his mother may have written.
As he reads, his poor face brightens as he murmurs to himself, 'Yes, I will try, I will risk all; I will chance the consequences.'
Let us look at him a moment. Here is vileness indeed, a very type of impurity; and here we see how sin looks in the eyes of God.
His limbs swollen, his hair white, tumours appear on his jaws, his breath noisome, and his whole person fitted to inspire loathing.
Leprosy is infectious and of slow progress. It begins within the body, and throws out a moisture which corrupts the outside, and covers it with a kind of white scale. It is said that the body becomes so hot that a fresh apple held but an hour in the hand will be withered and wrinkled. The parts of the body infected become insensible, and in time fall off.
The leper is conscious that he is vile. He wears the leper's garment, and day by day from his lips comes the mournful cry, 'Unclean, unclean!'
Then, the leper is not only conscious of his vileness, and acknowledges it, but he despairs of cleansing. He knows that unless some Supreme Power intervenes death will ensue.
It was, perhaps, his desperate condition which led this leper, of whom we speak, to break, with heroic courage, through the ceremonial law, and to expose himself to the risk of being stoned to death that he might cast himself at the Saviour's feet.
See him venturing through the gate into the city to find Jesus. And when at last he approaches the place where he expected to see Jesus, he discovers to his great disappointment that the Lord has gone up the mountain side.
I fancy I see the leper crouching, waiting, and watching for Jesus. At last, that wonderful Form appears, and comes down the mountain with a great crowd following.
How can he get to Jesus? is the leper's first thought. With a dash and the cry,' Unclean!' which causes the crowd to make way and shrink back in horror, he rushes forward and prostrates himself at the feet of Jesus. 'Lord, if Thou wilt,' he cries, 'Thou canst make me clean.'
Here we see the vast difference between curiosity and need. The crowd follow out of curiosity. The leper flings himself in abandon at Jesus' feet because of his need. Need alone will make a man really come to Jesus. The soul that feels its need, and realizes its sin, will make an effort -- a dash to get to God.
Listen to the leper's prayer! 'Lord.' He owns Jesus as his Lord. He makes a complete, unconditional, and unreserved surrender, and feels his helplessness! Only God can save him! That is the way to come to Jesus!
His was a model prayer -- simple, short, direct. It was grounded in a glorious faith in the power of Christ to heal; a prayer that did not limit God; believed, indeed, that with Him nothing was impossible.
It is well to recollect that God has never failed with a case yet. Those who have wandered the farthest away from Him, those who have sunk the lowest, He can restore, and will never turn His ear from a prayer fashioned like that of the leper's.
I fancy I see the breathless crowd shrinking back in horror! I fancy, too, that I hear those clear, beautiful words ring forth: 'I will; be thou clean.' But Jesus not only speaks; to the astonishment of the crowd, He puts forth His hand and touches the leper. That touch may have been a violation of the letter of the law, but not of the spirit. Jesus knew His touch would give healing to the leper, and not pollution to Himself.
At the cry of the leper, Jesus touched him immediately, true figure of God's readiness to forgive and cleanse sin.
Jesus is the same to-day. He deals with sin and the sinner in the same way. If you will come in the same spirit as the leper, His hand will be immediately stretched forth to save.
When Jesus touched the leper I can picture the crowd drawing nearer. They watch the wonderful change take place. A flush passes over the leper's pale face, the despairing look gives way to an overwhelming look of joy. The cringing stoop and feeble gait change to an upright attitude and a firm tread. See him going to show himself to the priest. He is commanded to 'tell no one,' but as he goes he meets an old friend. The temptation is too great; he tells him what has happened, and then another and another. He cannot keep the truth in, but blazes it abroad.
Oh! If you would find Christ you must push through the difficulties and the hindrances that would keep you away from Him. If, in the spirit of the leper, you come as you are, conscious of your sin, confessing it with faith in God's power to cleanse you, you will hear the selfsame words from those gracious lips: 'I will; be thou clean,' and immediately your leprosy, your sin, will leave you.
I see the new creation rise,
The cleansing Stream I see, I see,
* * * * *
HARVESTS: JOY AND SORROW
As we read these words of the Master we fancy we can see His benign and majestic Presence as He stops and, turning round, looks not upon the beautiful harvest fields, with waving corn, but upon the vast field of the world, with its teeming masses of humanity.
So many are ready to look upon the cornfields of gain, to look for something to fill their baskets and store, but hearts like the Master's are wanted that see the great harvest fields of humanity, all ripe and ready to be gathered in. Hearts are wanted that will not only go out in sentimental sympathy, but that will give a helping hand, where it is required, leaving the fields of gain, and toiling for love amidst human need. There seem to be two thoughts in the mind of the Master. As He speaks He strikes two notes -- one of joy, and one of sorrow.
A plentiful harvest always brings joy. Another harvest of the earth is being gathered, and as I write I am looking upon the golden cornfields, and see the men all busily engaged. Thank God for plenty!
Do we praise God sufficiently for His mercies? Do we always value them? Sometimes we do not fully appreciate them until they are withdrawn.
It seems to me that if the Master walked our crowded cities, He would repeat again those words, 'Truly the harvest is plenteous.' Plenty to reap; only labourers are wanted to go out. The masses are still there; the need is for some one to go to the masses.
Then the note of sorrow seems to drown and spoil the note of joy. 'The harvest is plenteous' -- rejoice! 'But the labourers are few' -- cause for sorrow. The masses are there -- the opportunity -- but so few to take hold of it. Corn to be gathered in, but few reapers.
The harvest was plenteous in the time of Christ, but it is even more so now. The people are waiting for us, they expect us and look to us, who are the followers of Christ, to go to their help!
Oh, the open doors! Was the door of the public ear ever more ready to listen to us than at the present time? Those who once turned a deaf ear, and did not believe in us, now say, 'Yes, you are right. You have got the right thing, and are doing the right thing.'
Were people ever more ready to open their doors to us than they are now? How they appreciate the visit of the Salvationist! The doors, too, of the workhouses, the prisons, the hospitals are opening more widely to us.
Yes, the people are ready to open their hearts to us. The poor drunkard, as he rolls from one side of the road to the other, exclaims when he sees a Salvationist, 'God -- bless -- General -- Booth!'
The masses may not always rush as excitedly after us as they once did -- there are so many counter-attractions now -- but they are there. We must go to them; they need us.
I have heard the story of a little boy who lost his mother, and was found lying upon her grave weeping and praying. Some one who had felt moved to do something for the motherless boy discovered him in this position. 'Jesus has sent me to you!' said the lady. 'I am going to love you as my own little boy.' 'Oh,' he said, through his tears as he looked up as though he had been expecting her, 'so Jesus has sent you! You have been a long time coming though, haven't you?'
Do the sinners and drunkards feel we are a long time coming, because the labourers are too few, and you have kept back from becoming one?
Above the note of joy, above the plentiful harvest, rings out so loudly the note of sorrow -- 'But the labourers are few!' How few in comparison to the masses! So few labourers who will put off the coat of formality, who will pull up the sleeve of ease! Few who will work by the sweat of their brow and make a sacrifice for souls! Sacrifice is needed in God's service to-day as much as ever, and never was there a more urgent call for men and women who, like our precious General, can say, 'I am never out of it; I sleep in it; I shall die in it.' Nothing worth anything can be accomplished without sacrifice.
How many are there in God's service who merely look on? More are wanted who will work. The success of The Army has been because of its willingness to come down to the level of the people -- to strive to save them. A reckless dying to self is what is needed. Was it not dying made the harvest? The dying is part of the success. The grain was dropped into the ground, and died before it could spring forth and produce living results. There must be the dying to sin, and to self, and self-interests.
Men and women of heart are wanted -- men and women, who in seeking souls will give themselves up in the spirit of the champion aviator who said, 'If I had not succeeded I should not have been here. I was determined to win, or die in the attempt.'
Labourers are wanted who will dig right deep down into the heart of sorrow, and find those desires and longings after purity and goodness which even the heart itself scarcely realizes are there.
In the man of the world, though one would hardly believe it as one sees the cynical look and sneer and hears him say, 'I don't want your church -- your Army!' there is underneath, in spite of his apparent indifference, a longing after God and a disgust of the world.
Men and women are wanted to grapple with the vast harvest -- this great opportunity -- and to gather in God's sheaves. Oh, to leave the world of vice and folly as naked as the earth is after the harvest! Empty public-houses! Empty gambling dens! Empty abodes of impurity! Empty slums! Empty all places where God is not! But thanksgiving in the home; the House of God filled with rejoicing people, telling out of hearts of gladness that labourers came into the fields of sin and gathered them in.
Many letters, folded and handled until almost worn to pieces, but treasured above gold, lie before me. They are addressed to Kate Lee's spiritual children, to the sick, the discouraged, or those living far from an Army hall and rarely able to get to the meetings. These letters are short, often mere notes of one page, rarely running into more than two or three folios; and they are not clever. Kate had little imagination in her make up; she did not see pictures wherever her eyes lit, and never had time to give to studied composition. The value of these letters to us is that any ordinary girl, anyone with a heart 'at leisure from itself' could write such letters. Over and over again in The Army Founder's life we find him saying, 'It is heart work we want. HEART work.' It is because Kate Lee's letters came from a heart full of love that they reached hearts and never failed to bless them.
She had a delightful way of remembering the anniversary of some of her trophies' conversion. She called them birthdays. Here is a little scrap to a man battling bravely against ill health and other adversities: --
I am enclosing a Money Order for five shillings so that you can get some little thing for yourself or your wife. Just a little birthday gift for your twelfth birthday. God bless you! Keep near to Jesus and do all in your power to lead those around you to Him. Praise Him that He has kept you all these years. He is a wonderful Saviour and worthy of our praise.
No work of art was so beautiful in the eyes of Kate Lee as the photographs of men and women to whom God had given 'beauty for ashes.' She writes to one: --
The photo is lovely -- I am proud of you. It gives me real joy to hear that you are still wheeling your barrow around and reminding souls of Eternity. Give my love to your precious wife.
To a man just lifted from a pit of sin, and whose feet still tottered, she wrote: --
I cannot call and see you as I am away until Friday night Then I shall look for you at the meeting. I have asked a comrade or so to call and see you. I am praying much for you. Hold on to God, and He will prosper you and bless you, and soon, if you only serve Him with all your heart, things will be so different with you and your dear family.
To one in deep bereavement: --
I wish I had been home when the letter came so that I could have sent you word by the next post. In these trying hours I rejoice that you are fully the Lord's, and can trust Him. We cannot understand why sorrow and bereavement should touch us, but God allows it in love.
She regarded the 'funniosities' of people with a large indulgence. One old comrade who had put on the uniform during her command at his corps, believed that no one could buy a jersey and cap so well as 'the dear Adjutant,' so wherever she was, he sent to her when he needed new uniform.
Her Christmas remembrances did not take the form of considerable presents to special friends or comrades who might remember her in return. Rather, her love overflowed in a flood of loving messages. Calendars, leaflets, cards costing only a penny or two, with just a word of greeting, flew in all directions, carrying the remembrance of her smile, her voice, and her faith and prayer that her comrades and friends would press on through sacrifice and service to victory.
But it would seem that the letters she most loved to write were to young officers and those who wished to become officers. She counselled one: 'Seek God with all your heart. If you will pay the price of letting Him have all His way, He will fill you with a passion for souls.'
To a young captain she wrote a few weeks before her promotion to Glory: --
There is nothing in the world like soul-winning. If you will only give up yourself wholly to it, and let God fit you for it, He, who is no respecter of persons, can do for you as much as for any other soul whom He has called.
I have found one of the greatest helps to soul-winning, next to Bible study and prayer, is the reading of helpful books. I know that the officer who does her duty to the people has little free time, but I used to make myself spend a certain time each day in study, and kept a note book to make notes of any paragraph that impressed me so that I would not forget the thoughts which inspired me. Have you read 'Tongues of Fire,' by William Arthur; S. D. Gordon's 'Quiet Talks on Prayer'? To read such books on your knees, drinking in the wonderful truths they set forth, would help you towards the realization of all your desires.
Kate Lee loved girls in their teens, and they were much drawn to her.
Some officers who excel in helping the rag-tag class of young people, as Kate Lee did, fight shy of those of refined training and better education. This may possibly arise from a dread lest these keen young folk may take their soundings and soon 'touch bottom' in many directions. Kate feared nothing. Common-sense, an even balance, and true love count most with the young, and of these qualities she had abundance.
Major Mary Booth says: --
Dear Angel Adjutant! How I loved her! Miriam and I, when we were in our early teens, did several week-ends for her and I was much impressed by her love for the poor. Her zeal, and the influence of it, remains with me to-day. After the meetings were over, Miriam and I, when taking supper with the Adjutant, often stayed till one o'clock in the morning, listening to her tales of the poor drunkards. I remember specially one night, she tried to drag us to bed, but we finished by getting her to sit down on the stairs and tell us some more of her thrilling experiences.
The following extracts from letters show her winsome way of helping them to aim at the best things: --
I have started a series of articles on the 'Five Senses,' and felt you would like to help me. Will you keep your eyes open for illustrations bearing on the subject, spiritual or otherwise, and pass them on to me. I have the subject in my mind and keep finding fresh material for it; if you will help me, you will have a share in the outcome by and by, if the idea develops satisfactorily.
From another letter: --
I am sending you 'The Life of The General.' It is only a cheap copy, but I saw it on the bookstall last night, and thought you would like to have it. It is so wonderful to see how God raised him up and used him as His instrument. It shows what wonderful things God can do when one is fully yielded to Him, and what responsibility rests upon us each. If William Booth had held back, we see what he would have missed, and his great work would have been left undone.
Still another: --
I am feeling concerned about you. You must not let yourself get down. Nerves can be conquered, and you know where to get strength to rise above them. I am praying for you and believe God will do great things for you. Do not be surprised that training is necessary and that the training comes in the way we should prefer not.
Then she turns the girl's thoughts away from herself and concludes with, 'Pray for me.'