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115 Years Ago
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115 Years Ago


The Man Beside William Booth

by William R. Groff

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Early 20th-century preacher Billy Sunday had Ira Sankey to write and lead his songs. Modern-day evangelist Billy Graham had Cliff Barrows to lead songs and George Beverly Shea to sing solos. Salvation Army Founder William Booth had Commissioner John Lawley, who composed songs, sang solos, and led people to the Lord after he spoke.

Lawley began what would be 22 years of travels with Booth in 1890, when Catherine Booth died. The General approached then-Colonel Lawley to ask if he would be willing to be his aide-de-camp.

That part of Lawley's job was not easy. The General would decide where to go, and Lawley would have to make all the arrangements. He had to become familiar with foreign timetables, rail and boat connections, climate, seasons, lengths of day in that area, and more.

But for Lawley, as much as for Booth, the half million miles on the road were worth it for the mission—reaching people for Jesus. When Booth visited the Holy Land, Lawley wrote, "The congregations included Jews, Greeks, Syrians, Egyptians, Armenians, and English. All heard of the Son of God, who once lived in their city, and died without its gates for the sins of the world."

Like Booth, Lawley had a heart for people. A contemporary described him as "a great big human, with a child's soul." He was among the first to use the brass band on the platform to play and sing prayer songs while he pleaded at the pulpit for souls. Lawley's own excitement at one such altar call reveals his passion.

"Here they come! God bless that dear fellow in soldier's uniform, with his sword at this side; he has come to surrender to the King of kings."

A big part of Lawley's ministry was caring for William Booth. An excellent sailor, Lawley described one particularly stormy voyage between Tasmania and Australia, during which the old General was unable to sleep. One of Lawley's treasured memories, he said, was holding Booth gently, but firmly, in his arms until he dropped off to sleep.

At Booth's last engagement, Lawley led the General, by then nearly blind, from the platform. Then, Lawley went back to conduct one last altar call.

Near the end of Lawley's life, Commissioner Edward Higgins, then second in command of the worldwide Army, came to the dying Lawley's bedside. Higgins prayed aloud, not knowing if Lawley could even hear him. Then the battle-weary warrior opened his eyes and faintly whispered, "Faithful. Faithful."