"A VISION of the LOST"
-by William Booth.
[Founder of the Salvation Army]
On one of my recent journeys, as I gazed from the coach window,
I was led into a train of thought concerning the condition of the
multitudes around me. They were living carelessly in the most
open and shameless rebellion against God, without a thought for
their eternal welfare. As I looked out of the window, I seemed to
see them all... millions of people all around me given up to their
drink and their pleasure, their dancing and their music, their
business and their anxieties, their politics and their troubles.
Ignorant- willfully ignorant in many cases- and in other instances
knowing all about the truth and not caring at all. But all of them, the
whole mass of them, sweeping on and up in their blasphemies and
devilries to the Throne of God. While my mind was thus engaged,
I had a vision.
I saw a dark and stormy ocean. Over it the black clouds hung
heavily; through them every now and then vivid lightening flashed
and loud thunder rolled, while the winds moaned, and the waves
rose and foamed, towered and broke, only to rise and foam, tower
and break again.
In that ocean I thought I saw myriads of poor human beings
plunging and floating, shouting and shrieking, cursing and
struggling and drowning; and as they cursed and screamed
they rose and shrieked again, and then some sank to rise no more.
And I saw out of this dark angry ocean, a mighty rock that rose up
with its summit towering high above the black clouds that overhung
the stormy sea. And all around the base of this great rock I saw a
vast platform. Onto this platform, I saw with delight a number of the
poor struggling, drowning wretches continually climbing out of the
angry ocean. And I saw that a few of those who were already safe
on the platform were helping the poor creatures still in the angry
waters to reach the place of safety.
On looking more closely I found a number of those who had been
rescued, industriously working and scheming by ladders, ropes,
boats and other means more effective, to deliver the poor strugglers
out of the sea. Here and there were some who actually jumped into
the water, regardless of the consequences in their passion to
"rescue the perishing." And I hardly know which gladdened me the
most- the sight of the poor drowning people climbing onto the rocks
reaching a place of safety, or the devotion and self-sacrifice of those
whose whole being was wrapped up in the effort for their deliverance.
As I looked on, I saw that the occupants of that platform were quite
a mixed company. That is, they were divided into different "sets" or
classes, and they occupied themselves with different pleasures and
employments. But only a very few of them seemed to make it their
business to get the people out of the sea.
But what puzzled me most was the fact that though all of them had
been rescued at one time or another from the ocean, nearly
everyone seemed to have forgotten all about it. Anyway, it seemed
the memory of its darkness and danger no longer troubled them at
all. And what seemed equally strange and perplexing to me was
that these people did not even seem to have any care- that is any
agonizing care- about the poor perishing ones who were struggling
and drowning right before their very eyes... many of whom were
their own husbands and wives, brothers and sisters and even their
Now this astonishing unconcern could not have been the result of
ignorance or lack of knowledge, because they lived right there in
full sight of it all and even talked about it sometimes. Many even
went regularly to hear lectures and sermons in which the awful
state of these poor drowning creatures was described.
I have always said that the occupants of this platform were engaged
in different pursuits and pastimes. Some of them were absorbed
day and night in trading and business in order to make gain, storing
up their savings in boxes, safes and the like.
Many spent their time in amusing themselves with growing flowers
on the side of the rock, others in painting pieces of cloth or in
playing music, or in dressing themselves up in different styles and
walking about to be admired. Some occupied themselves chiefly
in eating and drinking, others were taken up with arguing about the
poor drowning creatures that had already been rescued.
But the thing to me that seemed the most amazing was that those
on the platform to whom He called, who heard His voice and felt
that they ought to obey it- at least they said they did- those who
confessed to love Him much were in full sympathy with Him in the
task He had undertaken- who worshipped Him or who professed to
do so- were so taken up with their trades and professions, their
money saving and pleasures, their families and circles, their
religions and arguments about it, and their preparation for going to
the mainland, that they did not listen to the cry that came to them
from this Wonderful Being who had Himself gone down into the sea.
Anyway, if they heard it they did not heed it. They did not care.
And so the multitude went on right before them struggling and
shrieking and drowning in the darkness.
And then I saw something that seemed to me even more strange
than anything that had gone on before in this strange vision. I saw
that some of these people on the platform whom this Wonderful
Being had called to, wanting them to come and help Him in His
difficult task of saving these perishing creatures, were always
praying and crying out to Him to come to them!
Some wanted Him to come and stay with them, and spend His
time and strength in making them happier. Others wanted Him to
come and take away various doubts and misgivings they had
concerning the truth of some letters He had written them. Some
wanted Him to come and make them feel more secure on the rock-
so secure that they would be quite sure that they should never slip
off again into the ocean. Numbers of others wanted Him to make
them feel quite certain that they would really get off the rock and
onto the mainland someday: because as a matter of fact, it was
well known that some had walked so carelessly as to loose their
footing, and had fallen back again into the stormy waters.
So these people used to meet and get up as high on the rock as
they could, and looking towards the mainland (where they thought
the Great Being was) they would cry out, "Come to us! Come and
help us!" And all the while He was down (by His Spirit) among the
poor struggling, drowning creatures in the angry deep, with His
arms around them trying to drag them out, and looking up- oh! so
longingly but all in vain- to those on the rock, crying to them with
His voice all hoarse from calling, "Come to Me! Come, and help Me!"
And then I understood it all. It was plain enough. The sea was the
ocean of life- the sea of real, actual human existence. That
lightning was the gleaming of piercing truth coming from Jehovah's
Throne. That thunder was the distant echoing of the wrath of God.
Those multitudes of people shrieking, struggling and agonizing in
the stormy sea, was the thousands and thousands of poor harlots
and harlot-makers, of drunkards and drunkard makers, of thieves,
liars, blasphemers and ungodly people of every kindred, tongue and nation.
Oh what a black sea it was! And oh, what multitudes of rich and
poor, ignorant and educated were there. They were all so unalike
in their outward circumstances and conditions, yet all alike in one
thing- all sinners before God- all held by, and holding onto, some
iniquity, fascinated by some idol, the slaves of some devilish lust,
and ruled by the foul fiend from the bottomless pit!
"All alike in one thing?" No, all alike in two things- not only the
same in their wickedness but, unless rescued, the same in their
sinking, sinking...down, down, down... to the same terrible doom.
That great sheltering rock represented Calvary, the place where
Jesus had died for them. And the people on it were those who had
been rescued. The way they used their energies, gifts and time
represented the occupations and amusements of those who
professed to be saved from sin and hell- followers of the Lord Jesus
Christ. The handful of fierce, determined ones, who were risking
their own lives in saving the perishing were true soldiers of the
cross of Jesus. That Mighty Being who was calling to them from
the midst of the angry waters was the Son of God, "the same
yesterday, today and forever" who is still struggling and interceding
to save the dying multitudes about us from this terrible doom of
damnation, and whose voice can be heard above the music,
machinery, and noise of life, calling on the rescued to come and
help Him save the world.
My friends in Christ, you are rescued from the waters, you are on
the rock, He is in the dark sea calling on you to come to Him and
help Him. Will you go? Look for yourselves. The surging sea of life,
crowded with perishing multitudes rolls up to the very spot on which
you stand. Leaving the vision, I now come to speak of the fact- a
fact that is as real as the Bible, as real as the Christ who hung
upon the cross, as real as the judgment day will be, and as real as
the heaven and hell that will follow it.
Look! Don't be deceived by appearances- men and things are not
what they seem. All who are not on the rock are in the sea! Look at
them from the standpoint of the great White Throne, and what a
sight you have! Jesus Christ, the Son of God is, through His Spirit,
in the midst of this dying multitude, struggling to save them. And
He is calling on you to jump into the sea- to go right away to His
side and help Him in the holy strife. Will you jump? That is, will you
go to His feet and place yourself absolutely at His disposal?
A young Christian once came to me, and told me that for some
time she had been giving the Lord her profession and prayers and
money, but now she wanted to give Him her life. She wanted to go
right into the fight. In other words, she wanted to go to His
assistance in the sea. As when a man from the shore, seeing
another struggling in the water, takes off those outer garments that
would hinder his efforts and leaps to the rescue, so will you who
still linger on the bank, thinking and singing and praying about the
poor perishing souls, lay aside your shame, your pride, your cares
about other people's opinions, your love of ease and all the selfish
loves that have kept you back for so long, and rush to the rescue
of this multitude of dying men and women.
Does the surging sea look dark and dangerous? Unquestionably it
is so. There is no doubt that the leap for you, as for everyone who
takes it, means difficulty and scorn and suffering. For you it may
mean more than this. It may mean death. He who beckons you
from the sea however, knows what it will mean - and knowing, He
still calls to you and bids to you to come.
You must do it! You cannot hold back. You have enjoyed yourself
in Christianity long enough. You have had pleasant feelings,
pleasant songs, pleasant meetings, pleasant prospects. There has
been much of human happiness, much clapping of hands and
shouting of praises- very much of heaven on earth.
Now then, go to God and tell Him you are prepared as much as
necessary to turn your back upon it all, and that you are willing to
spend the rest of your days struggling in the midst of these
perishing multitudes, whatever it may cost you.
You must do it. With the light that is now broken in upon your mind
and the call that is now sounding in your ears, and the beckoning
hands that are now before your eyes, you have no alternative. To go
down among the perishing crowds is your duty. Your happiness
from now on will consist in sharing their misery, your ease in
sharing their pain, your crown in helping them to bear their cross,
and your heaven in going into the very jaws of hell to rescue them.
Now what will you do?