For some time the young boy didn’t speak, but then deliberately looking his mother in the eye he said, “No, I don’t want to give myself to God!”
Putting her hands to her face, tears spilled from Catherine Booth’s cheeks to the sawdust below. What now, she thought? Concerned for some time about her seven-year-old son, she approached him again after a children’s church service. Gently placing her hand on his shoulder, she said, “You are very unhappy”, to which he said, “Yes”. Catherine continued, “You know the reason”? Again the boy replied, “Yes”. Earnestly the young mother then asked him the clear question about giving himself to God. The boy said, “No”, and it rang in Catherine’s ears.
Young Bramwell’s response hurt his mother’s heart deeply, but Catherine also knew for it to be valid, the decision must be the boy’s own. As she recorded later, “God would not invade the freedom of the will, even of a child of seven. No one can decide for him, no one in heaven, earth or hell, but himself.” Shaken, but convinced that the Spirit of God works mightily on little children long before grown-ups think they are able to understand, she knew what must be done. Setting her face to pray for Bramwell, Catherine mingled prayer with tears, trusting God with the results.
Three months later at another children’s service led by his mother, Bramwell’s decision for Christ was made. Catherine sent the news to her mother, “Bramwell has begun to serve God, I feel a great increase of responsibility. Oh, to cherish the tender plant of grace aright.” Catherine Booth’s strong love and prayers for her eight children helped nurture them into powerful men and women of God.
Catherine Booth and her husband, William, founded of The Salvation Army in England, in 1865. After giving his life to God at the young age of seven, Bramwell Booth flourished in the things of God; administrating his father’s five soup kitchens, preaching among the poor, and taking up the cause to help eliminate the slavery and prostitution of young girls on the streets of East London, England. After the death of his father, Bramwell became The Salvation Army’s second General.
Adapted from Catherine Booth: The Story of Her Loves–Catherine Bramwell-Booth ©1970