XI. CONVENTIONS AND TOURS
THERE has been no more unique feature in Dr. Simpson's ministry than the conventions which he and his associates have conducted in many parts of the world. They have been unlike all other gatherings, although partaking of many of the essential features of the usual camp meetings, conferences, and conventions. For one of the elements of Dr. Simpson's genius was his ability to adapt other people's methods to the specific aims and objects which he wished to attain. The fervor of the old time camp ground, the sweet fellowship of the Keswick meetings, the strong message of the best Bible conferences, the inspiration of prophetic gatherings, the aggressive note of evangelistic campaigns, and the world vision of missionary convocations -- all mingled in these conventions. Saints and sinners old people and young children, great spiritual leaders and babes in Christ -- all found their portion of meat at this table. These gatherings were neither dull nor sensational, neither formal nor without order, neither without spiritual freedom nor given over to demonstrative extravagances. They were a puzzle to the professor of religious psychology and an enigma to the reporter, but to the hungry-hearted they were a feast, to the weary a refreshing, to the sick a fountain of healing, to the Christian worker an inspiration, and to the worn missionary a haven of rest.
The convention was the expression of Dr. Simpson's very life and personality. His simplicity, his humility, his graciousness, his freedom, his brotherliness, his deep insight into truth, his conservatism, his breadth of vision, his passion, and his supreme devotion to Christ seemed to pervade the very atmosphere and to control every meeting. He created a type that reproduced itself so that in the hundreds of conventions which he could not attend, the same spirit was manifest, and continues, since his home going, in these great gatherings.
These conventions have done more than any other single agency, except Dr. Simpson's pen, to disseminate the truth which he so loved and to call people to the service in which his own life burned out. Sometimes critics were won by the atmosphere and the spirit which he manifested in a meeting where his masterful appeal was not heard. A lady who had consistently opposed her husband was induced to attend a Canadian convention. Dr. Simpson was announced as the principal speaker at the afternoon meeting, but his train was late, and the session was nearly over when he arrived. He slipped quietly in at the side door and with bowed head took a seat at the rear of the platform, quite unnoticed by the chairman. The gentleman nudged his wife and said, "That's him." She watched him for a moment, and then her eyes fell. She had expected to see some assertive demagogue, and the first glance revealed to her a person with the spirit of the Man of Galilee. He had won a friend and disciple. A Presbyterian minister from the South, who was at Old Orchard, received a letter warning him against the theology of the Alliance. "Bless you," he wrote in reply, "their theology is all gone up in doxology."
These conventions began in the Twenty-third Street Tabernacle in 1884. The object was "to gather Christians of common faith and spirit for fellowship; to study the Word of God; to promote a deeper spiritual life among Christians; to seek a better understanding of the teachings of the Scriptures respecting our physical life in Christ; to wait upon the Lord for a special baptism of the Holy Spirit for life and service; to encourage each other's hearts in the prospect of the glorious appearing of the Lord; and to promote the work of evangelization at home and missions abroad."
At the second annual convention in the Twenty-third Street Tabernacle the speakers included Mrs. Baxter, of Bethshan, London; and Mrs. Stroud-Smith, from the Isle of Man; Dr. W. S. Rainsford and Dr. Henry Wilson, of St, George's Protestant Episcopal Church, New York; Dr. John E. Cookman, of the Bedford Street M. E. Church, New York; Rev. Kenneth Mackenzie, Jr., of the Church of the Holy Trinity, New York; Dr. T. C. Easton, East Orange, N. J.; Rev. H. W. Brown, Chicago; Miss Carrie F. Judd, now Mrs. George H. Montgomery, Buffalo; Rev. Charles H. Gibbud; Rev. Jacob Freshman, of the Jewish Mission; Josephus Pulis; Captain Lewis W. Pennington and Evangelist John Currie of Brooklyn; and Henry J. Pierson, of Boston.
This second convention in New York so impressed Christian workers that invitations came to hold similar meetings in the largest cities on the continent. The first series included Brooklyn, Buffalo, and Philadelphia in October, and Pittsburgh, Chicago, and Detroit in November and December, 1885. Some of these were held in large halls and others in leading city churches of various denominations. In spite of some adverse criticism, these meetings commended themselves to a wide circle in the Church. Rev. Dr. Spencer, pastor of the First Methodist Church, Chicago, where the convention was held, wrote indignantly concerning a telegraphic report of those meetings. "I have been very greatly pained to see an extract from the Detroit Tribune in reference to the convention held here by yourself, Dr. Cookman, and others. It is a scandalous libel and slander against you and your associates. I am not a believer in the particular doctrine of healing which you teach and did not sympathize with the anointing service, yet I want the more to be fair and candid. While many were not friendly to the convention, they could not but respect the decorum, the propriety, the solemnity of the services and especially the anointing service."
The Herald and Presbyter, of Cincinnati, the leading Presbyterian journal of the middle West, contained the following account of the Pittsburgh meetings. "The Faith Cure Convention which was held in Pittsburgh drew both through curiosity and sympathy a goodly number, and excited much comment especially among Christian believers. There was no question of the sincerity and integrity of character of the more prominent leaders, and the testimony of those who declare themselves to have been healed was listened to with great interest and respect. This is not the place to enter upon a discussion of the merits of this special phase of belief, but it was pleasant to find the conference so entirely evangelical and so full of Christ. It had little of the characteristics which are ordinarily found in meetings of this kind; and, except for the ceremony of anointing with oil, was scarcely unusual in any way. This ceremony naturally excites curiosity, yet it was merely an evident attempt to fulfill the literal counsel of James."
In the same kindly spirit the Michigan Christian Advocate referred to the meetings in the Woodward Avenue Congregational Church, Detroit. "This convention was to us personally a feast as rare as it was refreshing. All our aversion and prejudice, and we were full enough of both, disappeared under the genial and irresistible warmth of their ardent faith and what seemed to us their daring trust in God. Cranks they may be in the popular definition, but it is for the lack of just such crankiness that the Christian Church languishes today. If conversion to such a doctrine involves the masterly grasp of spiritual truth and that sublime nearness to God in prayer which characterizes these people, we cannot accept it too soon or too strongly. We were glad of at least one convention in which the methods of pastors and the failings of the Church were not held up for caustic criticism and biting ridicule and in which there was a genial recognition that we were one in the work of the Master.... There was noticeably an entire discrediting of self. The anointing was nothing; their agency was nothing; Christ was everything. It is not a small thing to have their faith and realizing sense of God's immediate presence with them, and this, they claim, was an integral part of their healing. They have their health, their spiritual elevation, and their keen enjoyment of unceasing labor for God. On the other hand, we have our invincible theories, our conventional piety, our unimpeachable orthodoxy, and our doctor's bills. Ought we not to be satisfied?"
The two great central conventions have been held annually in New York and Old Orchard Beach, Maine, where in 1881 Mr. Simpson met one of the great crises of his life during Dr. Cullis' convention. Half a mile from the shore there is a grove with a natural amphitheater. A number of annual religious conventions were held on this ground. Rev. H. Chase, one of the Camp ground directors, attended the second convention in the Twenty-third Street Tabernacle, and there gave this testimony: "I have learned here to receive Christ in His fullness as never before, and I shall go home, praising Him for a finished redemption, to live out His life in me and serve Him with all my heart. I cordially invite you all to Old Orchard next summer for a similar convention." Later an earnest request came from the directors of the Old Orchard Camp-ground for a conference for Christian Life, Work, and Divine Healing to be held for ten days in the summer of 1886.
The first Old Orchard convention was the outcome of these invitations and was held August 3-10, 1886. Among the speakers beside Mr. and Mrs. Simpson were Mr. W. E. Blackstone, Chicago; Dr. H. L. Hastings, of Boston; Dr. Henry C. McBride, Ocean Grove; George B. Peck, M. D., Boston; Mrs. Henry Pierson, Boston; Rev. John Cookman, D.D., Rev. Dr. Munger, Rev. A. E. Funk, Rev. C. N. Kinney, Mrs. Henry Naylor, Mrs. M. J. Clark, Mrs. O. S. Schultz, Miss Sara Lindenberger, and Miss Harriet Waterbury.
The subject of missions was pressed upon this convention. Mr. Blackstone delivered an epoch-marking address on Tibet, the last great stronghold remaining to be captured for Christ. Such a profound impression was made that steps were taken to organize a missionary society to carry the gospel to Tibet and other unevangelized regions. It was this moving of God's Spirit at the first Old Orchard convention which resulted in the world- girdling missionary movement of which Dr. Simpson has been the leader. At the second convention the movement took definite form in the organization of what was then called The Evangelical Missionary Alliance.
The early days of August have ever since witnessed one of the most remarkable religious gatherings of modern times. Dr. Simpson himself always gave his best in a series of addresses, and for thirty-two years his OM Orchard missionary sermons were among the greatest missionary appeals ever delivered. He gathered around him on this platform and at the New York convention the most deeply spiritual leaders and missionaries of the world, among whom were Dr. Andrew Murray, Dr. Baedeker, Mr. Henry Varley, Dr. Harry Guinness, Dr. F. B. Meyer, Dr. J. Hudson Taylor, Pastor Stockmeyer, Dr. John Robertson, Rev. John McNeill, Rev. Barclay Buxton, Rev. Charles Inwood, Pastor F. E. Marsh, Rev. D. H. Moore, Rev. Charles Inglis, Pastor Joseph Kemp, and many others from abroad were heard from time to time. The list of Americans would fill pages. We may mention Dr. A. J. Gordon, Dr. A. T. Pierson, Dr. H. L. Hastings, Dr. R. A. Torrey, Dr. George F. Pentecost, Mr. D. L. Moody, Major D. W. Whittle, Major J. H. Cole, Dr. James A. Brookes, Dr. Ellinwood, Mr. W. E. Blackstone, Dr. C. I. Scofield, Dr. Nathaniel West, Dr. F. L. Chapell, Dr. James M. Gray, Dr. Charles A. Blanchard. Dr. J. Wilbur Chapman, Dr. Robert Stuart MacArthur, Rev. Henri De Vries, Dr. Robert Cameron, Dr. D. M. Stearns, Dr. Robert E. Speer, Dr. J. Campbell White, Dr. A. C. Dixon, Dr. W. B. Riley, Dr. Egerton Young, Dr. C. C. Morrison, Rev. Henry Frost, Rev. Seth Rees, Dr. John Oerter, Colonel Clark, Dr. Henry C. Mabie, Mr. Charles G. Trumbull, Colonel Henry Hadley, Mr. Sam Hadley, Mrs. Phoebe Palmer, Mrs. Margaret Bottome, and Miss Frances E. Willard. This does not include any of the great people who were an integral part of the Alliance.
Frequently the attendance at the New York convention overflowed the Gospel Tabernacle, and the services had to be held in some large neighboring theatre or in Carnegie Hall.
One of the proofs of the power of these great conventions was the attention given to them in the daily press. Sometimes a whole page was devoted in the New York and Boston papers to these reports. Cuts caricaturing Dr. Simpson and the audience and burlesque reports of the proceedings frequently appeared. Occasionally, however, a keenly incisive sketch was published. Sometimes it came from a wholly unexpected source. A reporter from the New York Journal called one day on Mr. Simpson and asked him, "Do you know when the Lord is coming?" "Yes," replied Mr. Simpson, "and I will tell you if you will promise to print just what I say, references and all." The reporter's notebook was out in a moment. "Then put this down: 'This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness to all nations, and then shall the end come' (Matt. 24:14). Have you written the reference?" "Yes, what more?" "Nothing more." The reporter laid down his pencil and said, "Do you mean to say that you believe that when the Gospel has been preached to all nations Jesus will return?" "Just that," said Dr. Simpson. "Then," replied the reporter, "I think I begin to see daylight." "What do you think you see?" "Why, I see the motive and the motive-power in this movement." "Then," said Dr. Simpson, "you see more than some of the doctors of divinity." And the next morning the Journal constituency were given this simple dialogue with a most appreciative and sympathetic sketch of Dr. Simpson and his work.
The conventions in other cities have been one of the great outlets for the testimony of the Alliance. Unnumbered muhitudes have heard the message who otherwise would never have been touched by it. Most of these have remained in their churches, themselves quickened into new Life and their lives empowered for hitherto unthought of service. The ministry of many a pastor has been transformed. Hundreds have been called into Christian service who had never dreamed of such a life. A brilliant young woman, who was a court stenographer in St. Louis, was asked to report a convention in that city. Thinking it was a medical conference, she consented. She was amazed when Mr. Simpson rose at the beginning of the first meeting and said, "Let us pray." She was unconverted, but the Holy Spirit turned her heart to search after eternal realities, and before the year ended she had accepted Christ. She started to read the Bible, but "could not make head or tail out of it," so she went to the Moody Bible Institute. She is now known the world around as Miss Grace Saxe, Bible teacher of the Torrey- Alexander campaigns, and later of the "Billy" Sunday party.
When Mr. Simpson made his first trip to Great Britain during his Hamilton pastorate, he went as a tourist. When he returned in June, 1885, he was the most prominent delegate among hundreds from various lands at the Bethshan Conference. This conference brought together representative teachers on the Deeper Life from all parts of the world, some of the principal speakers being Dr. Simpson, Pastors Schrenk and Stocker, of Switzerland, and Dr. W. E. Boardman, Robert McKilliam, M. D., Mrs. M. Baxter, and Mrs. Katherine Brodie, of London, it began in Bethshan Hall, the headquarters of the work of Dr. and Mrs. Boardman, but, owing to the large attendance, Agricultural Hall was secured.
In Liverpool large audiences assembled in Hope Hall where at one of the meetings more than eighty persons were anointed for healing. Other conventions were held in Brighton, Worthing, Blackheath, Newcastle and Edinburgh.
The last of the series was held in the beautiful Scottish capital. Writing of this meeting Mr. Simpson said: "When we were last in Edinburgh fifteen years ago, we were received with cordial kindness and hospitality by the Presbyterian friends in the great Assembly in May, and had the privilege of meeting many of the great and good people of that Church, and even speaking in the Free Church Assembly Hall, in behalf of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. But now we were to represent a much less popular interest. Indeed, we were to stand under the suspicion of doubtful, if not false teaching."
Many ministers and medical students were in the audiences. At the first meeting a medical student tried to force a discussion on Divine healing, though the subject had not yet been mentioned. The medical students connected with the Edinburgh Medical Mission were deeply impressed during the meetings and asked for a private conference, which the main body of medical students attempted to break up, but the wisdom given to Dr. Simpson, Dr. McKilliam, and the other leaders, prevailed. The series of conferences made a deep and lasting impression in Great Britain, and much fruit resulted in after days.
The most important journey abroad in Dr. Simpson's ministry was his tour of the mission fields in 1893. He left New York in January for Great Britain where he held important conferences with missionary secretaries, in eluding Dr. Hudson Taylor and the leaders of the Church Missionary Society, addressed a number of large gatherings, and renewed precious fellowships with English friends.
A direct journey across the continent and the Mediterranean, a brief visit in Cairo and other Egyptian towns, a landing through the breakers at Jaffa, and he stood among sacred scenes. His brief visit to the Holy Land was one of the sweetest memories of his life.
"Sweet Olivet, sweet Bethany, My heart shall oft remember you"
is a couplet from one of several beautiful hymns and poems which he composed during that visit. He was kindly received by the missionaries of other societies in Jerusalem and assisted in the opening services of the Mildmay Mission Hospital at Hebron, then under the charge of Mrs. Bowie, of England. The Alliance had no mission in Palestine at that time, but Miss Lucy Dunn and Miss E. J. Robertson had been in Jerusalem for three years supported by friends of the Alliance. On Mr. Simpson's return to New York the Board decided to take up work in the Land of our Lord.
The latter part of February and all of March were spent in India, visiting and encouraging the Alliance missions in the province of Berar, under the leadership of Rev. and Mrs. M. B. Fuller, and in a rapid survey of the work of other societies in the great cities of India.
As Rangoon and Singapore were ports of call, Dr. Simpson was permitted to touch the mission work in Burmah and the Malay Peninsula. In Hongkong, then the great missionary center for South China; Canton, the southern mercantile capital, and Macao, where Robert Morrison landed as the first missionary to China, he made a careful Study of the South China field, where a little company of Alliance missionaries were preparing for the great pioneer work which was to follow. Similar studies in Central China, where the Alliance had established a mission, and in the North, where Miss Duow and others were located in Pekin, occupied the remainder of his two months' visit to this great empire. He had not time to enter Manchuria, where the Swedish Alliance Mission had been begun in the previous year.
Dr. Simpson's three weeks' journey through Japan was arranged by Dr. and Mrs. T. Gulick of Kyoto, the ancient capital, who afterward took the oversight of the Alliance work then in its inception in this island empire. In July he left Yokohama and, after a call in the mid-Pacific at Honolulu, reached San Francisco and crossed the continent, arriving at home just in time for the Old Orchard Convention.
In all the countries visited Dr. Simpson was warmly welcomed by other missions. He addressed numerous regular gatherings as well as specially arranged meetings and conferences, and gave in spiritual blessing quite as much as he gained in knowledge of the mission field.
A full account of this deputational tour was published in Larger Outlooks on Missionary Lands, a volume which is replete with information about the lands which had been visited.
One paragraph, written in Japan, touches his family history. "From across the great seas came also the message that our own dear mother had just gone to join our revered and honored father in the home above. We thanked our Heavenly Father for her fourscore years and the sweet memory of her life and love, and for our dear and venerable father, who, at eighty-four, had just a little while ago passed on before. How much of the rich blessing that has crowded our life is due to their faithful prayers! Thank God for their precious lives and everlasting memorial."
In January, 1910, Dr. Simpson left New York for another missionary journey. He called at St. Thomas in the West Indian Islands, at several Brazilian cities, spent a week in our Argentine missions, sailed around Cape Horn, visited Chile and the Alliance missions in that republic, touched Peru, then Ecuador, where a few Alliance missionaries are almost alone as light bearers of the Gospel, and thence journeyed homeward by way of Panama. There he was exposed to a contagious fever which, but for answered prayer, would have subjected him to detention in the pest house. He felt that it had been permitted to enable him to enter more fully into the testings which the missionaries endured in tropical climates. This trip so greatly enlarged his missionary vision that he said he had discovered South America.
In the Spring of 1911 Dr. Simpson again visited Great Britain, his last tour abroad. He was accompanied by Dr. R. H. Glover, who had just arrived from China on furlough, and Pastor F. E. Marsh, of Bristol, England, who had arranged a series of conventions extending over a period of nearly three months, and covering nearly all the principal cities from London to Dundee. Dr. Simpson also preached in many of the large churches and was welcomed by such Christian leaders as Dr. F. B. Meyer, Dr. R. F. Horton, Rev. Samuel H. Wilkinson, Rev. Joseph Kemp, Rev. W. Graham Scroggie, Rev. J. Barclay Buxton, Rev. D. H. Moore, Rev. Cecil Polhill-Turner, and Mr. Louis P. Nott. Besides this series of conventions, the party was invited to participate in several of the well known stated conventions for the deepening of the spiritual life.
This deputational visit added thousands to the friends which Dr. Simpson had already made in Great Britain. Nowhere was his message and ministry more greatly appreciated, and he received pressing invitations to return for service in an even wider sphere, but this was one of the many calls to which he was never able to respond. The reverence so manifest in British audiences and the sincerity evidenced in both criticism and approbation found a responsive chord in Dr. Simpson's heart, and he highly prized the fellowship of the large circle who knew him face to face and the greater number to whom his writings were as the words of a father in Israel.
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.
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