Brief Biographical Sketch Of The Life And Ministry Of Henry Allan Ironside
Written in honor of Dr. Ironside’s tenth anniversary as Pastor of The Moody Church.
We fully appreciate the problems which confront us when we attempt to write at least a portion of the life story of one who is still living and actively engaged in the ministry to which God has called him. On the other hand, because there is so much of real value in the life and ministry of this devoted servant of Christ that will be a source of real inspiration to multitudes, it is without apology that we pen these lines. When approached and urged to write a biographical sketch, Dr. Ironside protested emphatically in a spirit of true humility. Constant pressure, however, prevailed with the result that statistical information was forthcoming and we trust the Lord will bless the outcome.
Henry Allan Ironside was born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on October 14, 1876. His father died before he was two years of age, leaving him with his widowed mother and a brother, three weeks old. The Lord proved Himself again to be indeed the husband to the widow and father of the fatherless with the result that Mother Ironside did all in her power to bring up her little ones in the fear of God.
Harry, as he has always been known, although a religious boy, did not definitely accept Christ and come to the assurance of salvation until February 1890. It was then, to use his own words, “I rested on the Word of God and confessed Christ as my Saviour. From that hour, the Word of God seemed to be like a burning fire in my bones and I have my first public testimony in a Salvation Army ring three nights later.”
In The Salvation Army
The young lad joined the Salvation Army shortly after his conversion and at the early age of fifteen, served as an acting officer. Six months later he took the usual course in the training school and at sixteen, became a Lieutenant, assisting in two different Corps. He then became a Captain and had charge of various posts in the state of California. Trials through which he passed in those early days, when the Salvation Army work was not as popular as at the time of this writing, resulted in schooling him to “endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” This, combined with the thoroughly evangelistic type of the ministry, was used greatly of God in moulding the life of his servant.
Among The Brethren
Due to certain phases of doctrinal differences which developed, especially relating to Bible teaching concerning the subject of holiness, the young Captain felt led to resign from the Army work. He sought and found fellowship among that group of Christians commonly known as Brethren. He labored for years among them and although not confining his ministry to their assemblies, was, nevertheless, used of God to help establish a number of Bible truth centers and groups gathered only to the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Dr. Ironside recently said, “I still enjoy their fellowship as I have opportunity and count myself as one of their number.” When in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales on recent Bible teaching and evangelistic tours, Brother Ironside took every opportunity afforded to fellowship in the breaking of bread on Lord’s Day mornings with groups often referred to as Plymouth Brethren.
Missionary Work Among The Indians
“For some ten years,” says Dr. Ironside, “it was my privilege to spend a considerable part of each year in work among the Indians of the Southwest.” The ministry led to many lifelong friendships with a large number of real “original Americans” which have been greatly enjoyed. Not infrequently do [Native American] visitors call to see the Pastor of The Moody Church, and oftentimes they are to be seen in its services. More than one male child of Navajo or Mojave origin has been christened “Henry” or “Allan” or “Ironside” in answer to a sense of gratitude or appreciation on the part of Reservation parents. Many Indians, through the instrumentality of the Pastor, have been persuaded to attend regular Bible Schools where further training has resulted in effective service for Christ and His Kingdom among their own people. A country wide ministry of evangelism and Bible teaching was maintained during the entire period with ever widening blessing.
Bible Conference Ministry
Bible conference ministry has had a prominent place in the life of our Pastor. Great spiritual centers, during the summer months, such as Montrose, Pa; Winona Lake, Ind.; Gull Lake, Mich.; Erieside, Ohio; Stony Brook, Long Island; Ashbury Park, Atlantic City and Ocean Grove, N.J.; Massanetta Springs, Va.; Hendersonville, N.C.; and several others, have felt the impetus of his ministry for many years. During the spring, fall and winter months, brief conferences in churches, missions, tabernacles and Gospel halls, associated with a great variety of evangelical denominations and independent testimonies, have been held. Since coming to The Moody Church as its Pastor, two, three and four day Bible Conferences have been features in about forty of the fifty-two weeks of each year. This has resulted in a tremendous volume of testimony in 350 Bible Conferences, requiring 350,000 miles of travel in ten years, when over 5500 addresses were given, for which the entire church at large is truly grateful.
Pastor Of The Moody Church
After the resignation of Dr. P.W. Philpott, whose ministry was signally used of God in the erection of the present D.L. Moody Memorial Church and Sunday School building, Harry Ironside, the Bible teacher, was approached by members of the Church Executive Committee and asked to consider the pastorate of The Moody Church. He did not, at first, feel that this invitation could possibly be of the Lord as he had no experience whatever in pastoral work and did not consider himself fitted for, or called to, it. However, after some months with frequent consultations on the part of different members of the Executive Committee, he decided, in fear and trembling, to let his name be presented and, eventually, accepted the call to the pastorate on March 5, 1930.
Dr. Ironside preached his first sermon as pastor of the church on Sunday, March 16, 1930. From that time until the present his messages have resulted in the conversion and upbuilding of multitudes of precious souls. May God grant that this may continue for a long time to come.
Pastor Ironside has made four trips across the Atlantic in evangelistic and Bible conference ministry. On one of these he was accompanied by Mr. and Mrs. J. Stratton Shufelt, Gospel musicians, as well as members of his family. He also, with his wife and daughter, travelled to the Holy Land. His ministry was greatly valued in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. Several invitations have come to minister in Australia, New Zealand, Korea and other foreign lands which he has felt, thus far, unable to fill.
Throughout the Christian world, Dr. Ironside is probably better known through his printed ministry than in any other way. His expository volumes include notes and lectures on Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Proverbs, Song of Solomon, Jeremiah, Daniel the Prophet, Minor Prophets, Romans, First Corinthians, Second Corinthians, Ephesians (“In the Heavenlies”), Philippians, Colossians, Hebrews, Titus, Epistles of John, Jude and Revelation, with charts on Daniel and Revelation. Other devotional and expository volumes include “Four Hundred Silent Years,” “Bible Lands,” “The Mysteries of God,” “Mission of the Holy Spirit,” “Praying in the Holy Spirit,” “Sailing with Paul,” “Holiness,” “The False and the True,” “Miscellaneous Papers,” “Changed by Beholding,” “The Way of Peace,” “The Lamp of Prophecy,” “Random Reminiscences,” “Except Ye Repent” ($1000 prize book), “The Unchanging Christ,” “Charge That to My Account,” “Full Assurance,” and “Only Two Religions.” In addition to these, the Pastor has written over fifty tracts which have had a very wide circulation. Dr. Ironside’s book reviews, appearing in The Moody Church News and other publications have been highly valued. His magazine articles appear frequently in leading Christian periodicals. One of the most prominent of these is the notes on the International Sunday School lessons found in the Sunday School Times.
In College Affairs
Wheaton College honored itself when it honored Henry Allan Ironside by conferring the Litt. D. degree upon him because of his widespread literary accomplishments. Legions of Bible students in all parts of Christendom acquiesce in the decision of its board of trustees in granting this distinction. Although not a college graduate himself, he has been honored in becoming a board member or trustee of a number of educational institutions including Dallas Theological Seminary, Wheaton College, Bob Jones College and William Jennings Bryan University.
Western Book And Tract Co.
Some twenty-seven years ago, Dr. Ironside organized the Western Book and Tract Co. of Oakland, California, for the purpose of disseminating Christian literature. The influence of its testimony has been felt not only on the Western coast but throughout the length and breadth of the land. Dr. Ironside has been president of this organization since its inception. Book funds, supported by voluntary contributions, have made it possible to supply young preachers with helpful material in preparation for more effective ministry.
God Honored Leadership
During the decade that Dr. Ironside has served as pastor of The Moody Church, the number of Moody Church foreign missionaries on the active list has been increased from 91 to 107 at the time of the present writing. The church building debt, which stood at $319,500.00 in 1930 has been reduced to $103,150.00 (in both instances, deducting bonds reserved for annuities) in spite of days of severe depression. This accomplishment means that the interest (originally at six percent, now at three percent) debt per annum has been reduced from $19,170.00 to $3,094.00 which, interpreted into weekly amounts, would mean a reduction from $368.00 to $59.00.
Customary high spiritual standards of The Moody Church have been maintained. Many precious souls have found Christ as Saviour. Multitudes have been built up in their holy faith. In all we are bound to give thanks to God for His rich blessing upon and through the ministry of His servant. Hitherto hath the Lord helped us! It is with like faith that we look into the future and say, “Henceforth—our God shall supply all our need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” To Him, our glorious Saviour, be all the praise.
A Life Partner
No man’s life story is complete without referring to the one who is “heir together with him of the grace of life.” Our sketch goes back to the year 1898. In the providence of God—Harry had met Helen—a story as old as the race. A Christian courtship, and Helen Georgia Schofield, daughter of a Presbyterian pastor, became Mrs. Henry Allan Ironside. Together they shared the privations and the trials of faith, especially in the early days of ministry. Through the years, though often privileged to travel together to Bible conferences, and, two occasions, abroad, much of separation which falls to the lot of the travelling Bible teacher and his loved ones, has been the portion of the Ironsides. However, the courageous endurance of this sacrifice to the small family circle has meant the enrichment of that greater spiritual family, bearing the name of Him, “of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named.” How mindful all of us should be of the Word of God which tells us that those “who stay by the stuff” shall share in the spoils of battle with those who have been in the thickest of the fight. When we think of this we realize that our sister, Mrs. Ironside, will have a great share in the reward of her husband. Though ill at the time of writing this article, it is our hope that Mrs. Ironside will be well enough to join in the celebration of her gifted husband’s tenth anniversary.
What marvelous compensation, even here and now, when we think of one son, Edmund, who for years has served as president of the Southern Bible Training School, of Dallas, Texas, for colored* ministers, where a host…have received a Bible training which has sent them back to [home] with a real ministry; of another son and his wife, Mr. and Mrs. John Ironside, now in training at the Moody Bible Institute (the West Point of Christian Service) preparing for any field to which God may see fit to send them; a daughter, Lillian, in Wheaton College, with its slogan, “For Christ and His Kingdom,” being trained for high usefulness in the service of her blessed Lord and Savior. All of this has been a source of untold comfort and compensation to our devoted Pastor, who has been careful to praise God for these evidences of His grace.
Special anniversary services will feature the tenth milestone of our Pastor’s ministry on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, March 13, 15 and 17. A special feature of the Wednesday night meeting will be the dedication of the new entrance way to Sankey Auditorium, a project often mentioned by our Pastor as one which he would like to see accomplished. The entire Executive Committee of the Church plans to attend this initial mid-week service in a body and join in praise and prayer with our membership and friends for God’s rich blessings.
On Friday night, March 15, at least ten outstanding leaders, representing as many different fields of Christian testimony, with whom Dr. Ironside has had fellowship during his pastorate at The Moody Church, will be present to voice their congratulations and express their Christian greetings.
Sunday, the 17th, has been named the “great day of the feast.” Three services at 11:00 a.m., 3:00 and 7:30 p.m. will bring to a climax the effort to give honor to whom honor is due, not forgetting to praise God, from whom all blessings flow. We trust that every reader of The Moody Church News, who shall find it possible, will plan to attend these sessions and do all that can be done in inviting others and in praying for God’s richest blessing. —Charles A. Porter
* Editor’s note: The term “colored” was once commonplace in the American society of Dr. Ironside’s day. The term was complex in meaning; however as used here, it was not meant in a derogatory manner.