A VISION OF THE LOST
General William Booth’s Vision
I saw a dark and stormy ocean. Over it the black clouds hung heavily; through them every now and then vivid lightning 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 rock I saw a vast platform. Onto this platform, I saw a number of the poor struggling, drowning creatures 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 people 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, working with ladders, ropes, boats, and other means more effective, to deliver the poor strugglers out of this sea. Here and there were some who actually jumped into the water, regardless of all the consequences, in their passion to “rescue the perishing.” And I hardly know which gladdened me most – the sight of the poor drowning people climbing onto the rocks, reaching the place of safety, or the devotion and self-sacrifice of those whose whole beings were wrapped up in the effort for their deliverance.
As I looked, I saw that the occupants of that platform were quite a mixed company. 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.
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 own children.
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.
As I already said, the occupants of this platform were engaged in different pursuits and pastimes. Some of them were absorbed night and day 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, 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 they ought to obey it, at least they said they did, those who confessed to love Him much and 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 which 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 lose their footing and had fallen back again into the stormy waters.
So these people would meet and get up as high on the rock as they could, and looking toward the mainland (where they thought the Great Being was) they would cry out, “Come to us! Come, 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 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.
That sea was the ocean of life – the sea of real, actual human existence.
That lightning was the gleaming of piercing truth coming from God’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 were the millions of poor ungodly people of every kindred, tongue, and nations.
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 lust, and ruled by Satan from the bottomless pit! Unless rescued from their sin, they would all sink… down, down, down… all 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, Jesus, “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.