X. MANIFOLD MINISTRIES
THE first decade of Dr. Simpson's ministry in the new movement, of which quite unintentionally he became the leader, was an era of evangelism. Dwight L. Moody was at the zenith of his success. Major J. H. Cole and Major D. W. Whittle were holding campaigns in the power of the Spirit. L. W. Munhall, George F. Pentecost, and George F. Needham were at the beginning of their successful careers as evangelists. E. Paysou Hammond was in the midst of a unique work for the conversion of children. J. Wilbur Chapman, R. A. Torrey, and the generation of evangelists, among whom they were preeminent, were being prepared to follow in the train of this greatest group of soul winners of modern times. Dr. Simpson himself had been profoundly influenced by Whittle, Moody, and Cole, and had become a recognized leader of a type of pastoral evangelism which changed the complexion of the ministry of hundreds of godly people. The true evangelist has had no warmer friend nor any wiser or more sympathetic counselor. He could overlook almost any idiosyncrasy if only he were assured that the man was truly a winner of souls. "Yes, but he is one of the Lord's children," he would say when criticized for his leniency.
His preaching never lost the evangelistic note though in his later years he could not answer the many calls for meetings in every part of the world. When insuperable burdens finally overwhelmed him, he was planning to resume his old time every night meetings in the Gospel Tabernacle. He never attempted any work that had not for its object the salvation of souls, and all of his institutions at home and abroad have been a light brigade in the great movement for world evangelization.
It was to this that he attributed the blessing which attended his ministry. In the introduction to his little volume. Present Truth, he says, "Perhaps one reason why He has been pleased to bless the work which many of us are permitted so imperfectly to represent is because in some measure we may have caught His meaning and may be working out His plan."
The work around which all of the activities connected with Dr. Simpson's ministry centered was the Gospel Tabernacle. It was the outcome of his early evangelistic meetings in New York City.
In Word, Work, and World, which he began to publish in 1882, he says: "At first there was no formal organization, but as Christians began to unite in the work and converts to need a Church home, it became manifest that God was calling the brethren thus associated to organize a Christian church for this special work according to the principles and example of His Word. After much earnest prayer on the part of the little flock, a meeting was held at the residence of the pastor on the tenth of February, 1882, and a church formally organized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ consisting of thirty-five persons. In one year the actual membership of the church has grown to 217, and the stated Sunday evening congregations are 700. No assessments or pew rents are allowed, nor any unscriptural ways of sustaining the Lord's work."
Mr. Simpson was not following a wholly unbeaten track in his church ideal. "My plan and idea of a church," he said, "arc those which are exemplified in the great London churches of Newman Hall and of Spurgeon, comprising thousands of members of no particular class, but of the rich and poor side by side." He did not aim primarily, as many have supposed, at rescue mission work, for he wrote: "From the first it was not designed as a mission to the lowest and vicious classes, but as a self- supporting work among the middle classes, who have no church home." This was undertaken, as stated in the Manual and Constitution, "in a spirit of loving consideration for all our sister churches and a desire to work in the most courteous and harmonious relations with all evangelical Christians and congregations of every name." As the Gospel Tabernacle was an independent church, it was necessary that it should have its own constitution, principles, and by-laws. These were exceedingly simple, the constitution consisting of only eight brief articles of less than five hundred words, yet covering the essentials of faith. Profession of living faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and the evidence of a consistent Christian character and life were held as the only conditions of membership, and baptism by immersion upon profession of faith was practiced, but was not compulsory. The specific mission of the congregation was stated to be the evangelization of neglected classes both at home and abroad.
The atmosphere of the church was wholesome, an A although it suffered much misrepresentation and caricature, the testimonies of sane religious leaders, which might be quoted at great length, prove that there was nothing extreme or fanatical either in the testimony or methods. In The Christian Inquirer of May 24, 1888, was the following sentence: "It is a mistake to suppose that Mr. Simpson's work is mainly in the line of propagating the doctrine of Divine Healing, that being a subordinate feature. His chief work is purely evangelistic, and in many of the meetings physical healing is not referred to, but Christ as the sinner's Friend is the great theme." Speaking at the October convention in the Tabernacle in 1891, Dr. Ellinwood, Secretary of the Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church, said, "I cannot but pray that God may speed you in your foreign missionary and every other part of your work in seeking to lead people from the power of Satan to God. I rejoice in all you are doing."
The migrations of the congregation during the first five years have already been followed. From Twenty-third Street Tabernacle they removed in May, 1886, to The Church of the Disciples, an immense building at the corner of Madison Avenue and Forty-fifth Street, erected as a popular church center, where Dr. Hepworth and Dr. John Newman (afterwards Bishop Newman) had ministered. This was offered to them at about half of its value, and after much prayer was purchased.
The location proved to be less suitable than had been anticipated, and after two years an urgent demand for the property was accepted. For a few months meetings were held in Wendell Hall and Healey's Hall, while the Tabernacle at 692 Eighth Avenue was being erected. The plans included a book-store on the Eighth Avenue frontage with rooms for the Missionary Training College above it; Berachah Home, a six story building fronting on Forty-fourth Street; and the Gospel Tabernacle at the rear with corridors opening on both streets. The cornerstone was laid January 14th, and the Tabernacle was opened on June 23, 1889. Thus, after occupying twelve places of worship in eight years, the congregation found a permanent home.
The Gospel Tabernacle was the center of the ever increasing ministry which radiated from the life of Dr. Simpson until he rested from his labors. Here unnumbered thousands have been saved, sanctified, healed, and inspired by the Blessed Hope of the near coming of the Lord. It still continues to be the most aggressive center of evangelism in New York City. The poor are always welcome, and not infrequently drunkards stagger in through the corridor and go out saved by the grace of God.
A church with such various activities, with a congregation so widely scattered, and with such a standard of pulpit ministry as Dr. Simpson maintained required associate pastors of rare endowments. The energies of the senior pastor were more and more divided. Rev. A. E. Funk, who became assistant pastor in 1886, always had many duties in the Institute and in the Alliance. Several people of marked ability and spiritual power have been associated in the pastorate of the Tabernacle.
From 1891 till his death in 1908 Rev, Henry Wilson, D.D., was the greatly beloved associate pastor. He had been deposed from a curacy in Kingston, Ontario, by the Bishop of the Church of England in Canada because he had gone to the altar in the Salvation Army barracks, but had been welcomed by Dr. Rainsford as senior assistant pastor in St. George's Protestant Episcopal Church in 1883. After coming to New York he had been marvelously healed and quickened in the Twenty-third Street Tabernacle. With Dr. Rainsford's approval, he had participated in the Tabernacle ministries; and when he accepted the associate pastorate in the Gospel Tabernacle, Bishop Potter said his standing would be unimpaired. Consequently he maintained a communion service after the Episcopal order in the chapel of the Gospel Tabernacle regularly when in the city. He was Dr. Simpson's closest friend and most trusted fellow-worker, and his genial presence and spontaneous joy made him an untold blessing to the flock and the wider constituency all over the continent.
Rev. Milton Bales, D.D., a Methodist Episcopal minister, succeeded Dr. Wilson as associate pastor. Later, Pastor F. E. Marsh, from Sunderland, England, filled this office, lectured regularly in the Missionary Institute, and traveled widely in Convention work. Rev. W. T. MacArthur, one of the first field workers of the Alliance, devoted his unique gifts to the Tabernacle during 1912 and 1913. Since that time Rev. Elmer B. Fitch, a product of the Tabernacle itself, has been assistant pastor.
Besides these regular pastors, many people with a message were heard in the Tabernacle pulpit. In the early days Dr. John Cookman, of Bedford Street Methodist Episcopal Church, was heart and soul with Mr. Simpson both in his city work and in convention tours. He was a gifted preacher and one of rare spirituality, and his early death was an irreparable loss. Another Methodist minister, who from the first was associated with Mr. Simpson, was Rev. Henry C. McBride. The three made an admirable team for convention work. Someone, when asked about a meeting they conducted, said, "Simpson laid the fuel, Cookman kindled the fire, and McBride went up in the flames."
Rev. F. L. Chapell, D.D., who in his later years was Principal of Gordon Bible College, Boston, a preacher of the prophetic type, was often in the Tabernacle pulpit, and Dr. Frederick W. Farr, for several years Dean of the Missionary Training College, was one of the most frequent and acceptable substitutes in the pastor's absence. That prince of preachers, Dr. A. T. Pierson, was always warmly welcomed. In the more recent years the younger generation of Alliance leaders were frequently heard in this Mother Church. To its pulpit still come the most earnest preachers of the day, and not a few of the great leaders feel as does Dr. C. I. Scofield who, in his opening remarks at a convention, said that he considered it a high honor to be upon this platform, and indeed would have been disappointed if his friend, Dr. Simpson, had not invited him to be one of the speakers.
A German Branch of the Tabernacle was begun in 1887 through the ministry of Rev. A. E. Funk and others, which has been used to spread the testimony among many of the German speaking residents of the city and which has added many of the most devoted and godly members to the congregation. Regular services in German have been conducted by Pastor Funk.
"From the first," wrote Dr. Simpson, "the highest aim of the Tabernacle has been to labor and pray to carry out the Great Commission." With this in view, The Missionary Union for the Evangelization of the World was organized in 1883." How fully this aim has been realized is proof of the clear vision which he received at the very beginning of God's plan and purpose through his instrumentality. John Condit and four others were sent to the Congo in November, 1884, the intention being to establish a self-supporting mission, but this first missionary venture failed of permanency. All of the later missionary efforts were conducted through the Society formed at Old Orchard in 1887. Another phase of the missionary effort was the institution of the Missionary Training College in October, 1883. This opens such a large chapter in Dr. Simpson's life that Dean Turnbull will discuss it in a special contribution."
Though the movement was not a Rescue Mission, special efforts were made from the very beginning to reach the submerged element in the city, and such missions in New York and elsewhere look to the Alliance for the warmest sympathy and support. The closing day of the New York convention has always been devoted entirely to meetings for Rescue Missions, and draws together a large number of their leaders.
In 1885 two such missions were commenced. One of these, at Thirteenth Street, near Greenwich Street, was conducted and sustained entirely by the young people of the Twenty-third Street Tabernacle. The treasurer was Franklin L. Groff, who still continues in active association with the Tabernacle, and whose business genius has been used in his office as Financial Secretary of the Christian and Missionary Alliance to establish a thorough- going system in the work of the society.
The other, known as Berachah Mission, instituted and conducted by Mr. and Mrs. Henry Naylor, was opened on Twenty-ninth Street near Ninth Avenue in the Autumn of 1885. Mrs. Naylor had been wonderfully healed, and their life and fortune were consecrated to the Lord's service. They purchased a site at Tenth Avenue and West Thirty-second Street, and erected the best equipped mission in the city at a cost of more than thirty thousand dollars. It was dedicated on Mr. Naylor's fiftieth birthday, June 21st, 1887, and for many years reached thousands of the most degraded and neglected of the people in this district which was then such a den of iniquity that it was known as Hell's Kitchen. It also maintained a special work for sailors. Dr. Dowkonnt, of the Medical Mission, held a free dispensary and gave medical attendance without charge to the poor of the neighborhood. Rev. Robert Henck was pastor and superintendent for some years, and after Mr. Naylor's death was united in marriage with Mrs. Naylor.
In 1889 a branch, known as the Eleventh Avenue Mission, was opened on Eleventh Avenue near Thirty-eighth Street by converts and workers of the Berachah Mission where fruitful soul saving work was carried on.
As one of the earliest developments a service was opened in 1882 at 120 West Twenty-seventh Street for the salvation of the fallen women who crowded that part of the city, Mrs. Henry Naylor being the chairman of a committee of ladies who had this work in charge. This ministry has been continued under other auspices as the Margaret Strachan Home.
Mrs. E. M. Whittemore, like Mrs. Naylor, had received a great spiritual quickening when she was healed, and also devoted herself to rescue work for girls. In 1891 The Door of Hope was opened, and this mission has been one of the monuments to faith in God. It has always had the hearty co-operation of Dr. Simpson and the Gospel Tabernacle.
The South Street Mission also originated with the ladies of the Tabernacle but was taken up and wholly sustained by Mrs. D. W. Bishop, a friend of the work. It has been known for many years as the Catherine Street Mission, is under the superintendence of Miss Margaret Delaney, and is still in cordial fellowship with the Tabernacle. The Colby Mission, Greeenpoint, Brooklyn, was carried on and supported for twenty years by Mr. Charles Colby and his family, who had been inspired to service through Dr. Simpson's ministry. Rev. A. E. Funk assisted very frequently, especially in dispensing the ordinances.
The Eighth Avenue Mission was opened in 1899 by Miss May Agnew, the Organization Secretary of the C. and M. A. and one of Dr. Simpson's most devoted helpers. Miss Sarah Wray, of England, joined her soon afterwards as her associate and since Miss Agnew's marriage to Rev, H. L. Stephens has been the superintendent of this soul-saving station which is now located at 290 Eighth Avenue. There is no Mission on the continent where the fullness of Christ is held forth to sinners with greater power and attractiveness, and perhaps no other that participates so actively in the work of foreign missions.
Various ministries for children were undertaken quite apart from the regular Sunday School work in the Tabernacle and missions. Berachah Orphanage was opened in the summer of 1886 at 329 East Fiftieth Street in answer to the prayers and under the oversight of Mrs. O. S. Schultz, who afterwards became joint superintendent with Mr. Schultz. After occupying various buildings in New York the Orphanage was located at College Point, L, I., the property being purchased through a gift by Mr. Joseph Battin. It also was a work of faith, and like all such had many testings. The first came almost immediately, when unsympathetic state officials closed it because it had not received a charter. But at the hearing the opposing party inadvertently read a clause of the law which gave the Commissioners the privilege of granting a temporary license, and that very day the children returned to the Orphanage.
The Junior Missionary Alliance, with a department known as the King's Lilies, was organized in 1891, with that lover of children, Dr. Henry Wilson, as president. Mrs. A. B. Simpson, the treasurer, and Miss E. M. Brickensteen, the secretary, devoted themselves to this ministry. A unique series of studies for children on the Fourfold Gospel and Missions were prepared and widely circulated. The children's meetings at the great summer conventions are still a feature of never failing interest, the contributions of the children being a revelation to many a wealthy church member who has been present at their jug breaking.
A number of young people's meetings and societies grew up, among which were the Young Ladies' Christian Alliance, commenced in a small prayer meeting at the first convention at Old Orchard, in 1886; the Young Ladies' Christian League, organized in 1891, of which Mrs. C. deP. Field was the leader; and the Young Men's Crusade. During recent years the Young People's Alliance has been a very vigorous and spiritual work, maintained in the Tabernacle by the younger members. Besides their own regular meetings they carry on meetings on the street, on shipboard, and work in the hospital. The Young People's Association in the Alliance branches is everywhere characterized by intense missionary zeal.
It would seem that no one life could support so many activities. Yet we have scarcely mentioned Dr. Simpson's literary and publication work, the Missionary Institute, Berachah Home and the ministry of healing, the great conventions with their distinctive features, nor yet the greatest product of his life, The Christian and Missionary Alliance. These are so distinct and important that a chapter will be devoted to each of them.
Into few lives has as much been crowded as the Spirit of God made in and through A. B. Simpson in the first decade of this larger ministry. Looking back over it, his own heart was hushed and solemnized, and he expressed something of what it meant to himself in these verses:
"And what has the decade brought for God, and humanity, and you? O Master, sure it can mean to none All it has meant to me. O blessed years, begun with fears. But spanned tonight with rainbow light for all eternity."
"It has brought the richest work of life. It has brought His healing power; It has given the dearest friends of earth And countless blessings more. O dear Decade, Your light and shade Have seemed to fall With Christ in all a joyful memory."
The Life of A. B. Simpson is the Official Authorised Edition by A. E. THOMPSON, M. A. with Special Chapters by Paul Rader James M. Gray, D. D. Kenneth Mackenzie, J. Gregory Mantle, D. D. F. H. Senft, B. A. R. H. Glover, M. D. W. M. Turnbull, D. D. Published by Christian Alliance Publishing Co. 318 West 39TH St., New York in 1920. Lightly updated to the language of the 21st century by D. N. Pham. (c) 2012.
Insights of the past for the present
Life of A.B. Simpson - C&MA
ON THE BOOK SHELF
May your insights be worthy.