XV. AUTHOR AND EDITOR
ONE of the psalmists was so taken up with the glories of the King that he sings,
"My heart bubbles up with a goodly matter; My tongue is the pen of a ready writer."
No such spiritual impulsion moved Solomon when he said,
"My son, be admonished: Of making many books there is no end, And much study is a weariness of the flesh."
In his early ministry A. B. Simpson knew the laboriousness of much study and yet seems to have followed Solomon's admonition as to the making of books, for though his sermons frequently appeared in current papers, he had not given the public the fruit of his studies in permanent form.
When he was filled with the Spirit, it became literally true that his tongue was the pen of a ready writer, for his messages flowed so felicitously from his lips that a stenographic report needed little editing, and his sermons appeared almost verbatim in his periodical, and afterwards in book form.
It was because of this unusual gift that the making of many books was not an endless "weariness of the flesh," but one of the supreme joys of his ministry. Unquestionably he had great natural endowments. In his first two pastorates he prepared his sermons with the utmost care, writing and rewriting them, thus acquiring skill in literary art. "I had a facile pen," he once said in speaking of his experiences when he launched out in a life of faith, "and thought to support my family by literary' work. But the Lord checked me from commercializing my gift." While he consecrated his talents and culture, he came to realize their insufficiency for the work to which God had called him and applied the great secret which he had learned to this as to every other activity.
In that heart message at Bethshan he said with characteristic humility: "Then I had a poor sort of a mind, heavy and cumbrous, that did not think or work quickly, I wanted to write and speak for Christ and to have a ready memory, so as to have the little knowledge I had gained always under command. I went to Christ about it, and asked if He had anything for me in this way. He replied, 'Yes, my child, I am made to you. Wisdom.' I was always making mistakes, which I regretted, and then thinking I would not make them again: but when He said that He would be my wisdom, that we may have the mind of Christ, that He would cast down imaginations and bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ, that He could make the brain and head right, then I took Him for all that. And since then I have been kept free from this mental disability, and work has been rest. I used to write two sermons a week, and it took me three days to complete one. But now, in connection with my literary work, I have numberless pages of matter to write constantly besides the conduct of very many meetings a week, and all is delightfully easy to me. The Lord has helped me mentally, and I know He is the Savior of our mind as well as our spirit."
To the same inner working of the Spirit of God Dr. Simpson attributed his ministry of song. Though his reminiscences show that he recognized the maternal influence in his poetic temperament, a letter written not long before he laid down his pen stated that he had never written a poem in his life until the Spirit of God filled him with "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs." So, too, he speaks of his love for music and of his early, unaided attempts to master the violin. He had not a musical education, yet a few of his musical compositions, which seemed to flow from his heart spontaneously with the hymns to which they are set, have already been recognized in Church music. Both words and music of Everlasting Arms, Search Me O God, Your Kingdom Come, and others touch the heart chords so strongly and tenderly that they will live in our psalmody.
The Gospel in All Lands, which Mr. Simpson instituted during his pastorate in the Thirteenth Street Presbyterian Church, was the first illustrated missionary magazine on the American continent, and, with one exception, the first in the world. He received little encouragement when he proposed to issue this monthly. But he had caught the vision of a needy world and believed that no art was too good for missionary propaganda. The first volume which appeared in February, 1880, assured its success, and although he was compelled by the physical collapse which occurred in the following summer to turn the magazine over to others, he had set such an editorial standard that for many years it held a foremost place in current missionary literature.
In 1882, shortly after Mr. Simpson's independent work began, he issued the first number of another illustrated missionary monthly. The Word, Work, and World. Some of his best literary work was done on this magazine. He was laying the foundation for his comprehensive grasp of world wide missions and giving his constituency the fruit of his studies in illuminating articles and readable paragraphs. All of the freshness of a newly found message is in the sermons which appear in these volumes. Leading articles on phases of the deeper life were always included, and some of his courses of lectures in the Training College, rich in Biblical scholarship, appeared in outline.
In January, 1888, the name of this magazine was changed to The Christian Alliance as a few months before the society bearing that name had been organized, and Mr. Simpson desired to make the paper the mouthpiece of the work. It continued as a monthly for more than a year and then became The Christian Alliance and Foreign Mission Weekly. For a number of years it has appeared under the simpler title of The Alliance Weekly.
In outlining the policy of the paper in its new form as The Christian Alliance and Foreign Missionary Weekly, August 4th, 1889, the editor made this announcement:
"The great movement of today, the greatest movement of the Church's history is a CHRIST MOVEMENT; a revealing in our day, with a definiteness never before so real, of the person of the living Christ as the center of our spiritual life, the source of our sanctification, the fountain of our physical life and healing, the Prince- Leader of our work, and the glorious coming King, already on His way to His millennial throne and sending on as the outriders of His host and the precursors of His coming the mighty forces and agencies which today are arousing the Church and convulsing the world."
"This is the chosen and delightful ministry of this humble journal and the blessed circle of disciples who gather around the standard of the Fourfold Gospel; not merely to preach salvation, or sanctification, or healing, or premillennialism, but JESUS CHRIST."
"Therefore over all other names and themes we write our eternal watchword 'JESUS ONLY,' and devote these pages to the person and glory, the control, service, and exaltation of the Lord Jesus Christ."
As its editor, Mr. Simpson became recognized as one of the strongest editorial writers of our time. From week to week he compressed his richest experiences and profoundest knowledge in a few expository paragraphs, and scarcely a number left the press without one or more incisive editorials on the great providential movements and the trend of the times. He was most careful of the choice of his writers, and perhaps no paper has ever been at once so rich in spiritual food and so free from the taint of fanaticism. The missionary columns were filled with the triumphs of the Gospel not only in the Alliance fields but in the work of other societies of a kindred spirit.
For several years beginning July 1st, 1902, Dr. Simpson also edited a high class religious monthly known as Living Truths, his own contributions showing the maturity of his literary work, and the articles by Dr. Wilson, Dr. Farr, Dr. Pardington, and others being of permanent value.
Among those who assisted Dr. Simpson in the details of editorial work were Miss Harriet Waterbury, Miss Louise Shepard, Miss Emma F. Beere, and Dr. J. Hudson Ballard, their ability and devotion making his editorial ministry possible.
In the early days Mr. Simpson's Sunday morning sermon appeared in separate serial form as Tabernacle Sermons and had a wide circulation. In 1889, when his periodical became a weekly, as the discourse appeared in the paper, Tabernacle Sermons was discontinued. The demand for them had been so great that it became necessary to issue them in more permanent form.
In 1886 a book of sermons on service appeared under the title The King's Business, and another series covering the deeper life as presented in the books of the New Testament was issued in the same year entitled The Fullness of Jesus. Among the other early books of sermons may be mentioned The Christ of the Forty Days, or the revelation of the risen Christ, a theme on which Mr. Simpson loved to dwell; The Love Life of the Lord, which places him with Robert Murray McCheyne and Hudson Taylor as an interpreter of the mystical Song of Solomon; The Life of Prayer, showing as deep penetration into this mystery as Andrew Murray's discussions; The Larger Christian Life, revealing the possibilities of a Christ-centered and Spirit-filled life; and The Land of Promise, presenting our inheritance in Christ as typified in the conquest of Canaan. Many of his later sermons were also grouped into books.
The first volumes of his unique commentary, Christ in the Bible, appeared in 1889. This series was intended to include a survey of the great truths of the Word as revealed book by book. The best of his expository discourses were adapted to this purpose.
Four little volumes covering the essentials of Dr. Simpson's message were among his earliest productions and have had an enormous sale, both in English and other languages. They are in reality text-books of the Alliance movement. The Fourfold Gospel is a brief statement of the four aspects of the Alliance watchword, "Jesus Christ -- Savior, Sanctier, Healer, and Coming King"; and the others The Christ Life, Wholly Sanctified and The Gospel of Healing treat of phases of this truth.
Dr. Simpson has written a number of other books on the distinctive testimony of the Alliance. The Discovery of Divine Healing, Inquiries and Answers Concerning Divine Healing, A Cloud of Witnesses, and Friday Meeting Talks deal with Divine healing. His earliest book on the Lord's Coming was The Gospel of the Kingdom. The Coming One, written in 1912, is a general discussion of the Second Coming; and a companion volume, Foregleams of the Coming One, a survey of the prophecies of our Lord's Return, was left in manuscript and is now in the press. Back to Patmos, an interpretation of the book of Revelation, his latest contribution on this subject, was written at the beginning of the war. He did not adhere either to the Historic or the Futurist view in his interpretation but took middle ground where an increasing number of devout interpreters stand.
He was not an extremist on typology, but his three books on Divine Emblems in the Pentateuch, together with Christ in the Tabernacle, Emblems of the Holy Spirit and Natural Emblems in the Spiritual Life make clear the meaning of most of the typical passages in the Scriptures.
The two large volumes. The Holy Spirit in the Old and New Testaments, contain the fullest and clearest general survey on the person and ministry of the Holy Spirit that can be found in religious literature.
Polemical discussion had no attraction for Dr. Simpson. He had a positive message and usually left heretics and fanatical teaching alone. He loved to tell of the Mississippi pilot who justified his lack of knowledge of the location of the snags in the river by saying, "I reckon I know where the snags ain't, and there is where I propose to do my sailing." One of his strongest books is Present Truth, a series of discussions of the supernatural, in which he puts all opponents of true Christianity on the defensive by his clear presentation of the great facts which transcend natural law. In another book, The Old Faith and the New Gospels, he gives a most masterly arraignment of those unChristian phases in education, theology, sociology, and experimental life which have been seeking to discredit and supplant the orthodox view of Christ.
The great missionary messages which so thrilled multitudes unfortunately have been left unarranged. His Larger Outlooks on Missionary Lands, in which in his racy style he surveyed the fields which he visited on his tour in 1893, is his only book on Missions.
Among his most widely read books are several volumes prepared for private or family devotions. The most popular has been Days of Heathen upon Earth with a message for each day of the year.
Though there is not a phase of Christian life or experience that is not touched in these books, several others were devoted to special aspects of the Deeper Life, reiterating and enlarging the great central theme "Christ in you the hope of glory." He never allowed himself to be drawn away from this one great message.
During the last two years of his active ministry Dr. Simpson devoted much of his time to the Bible Commentary, in which he was condensing his life study of the Bible in the form of a Bible Correspondence Course. He had just begun the third and final year of this study when his pen was laid down. It was his ardent hope that he would be permitted to complete this work, but this expectation was not realized.
Dr. Simpson's early hymns were included in the first volume of Hymns of the Christian Life, which was published in 1891. This was followed by two other volumes in which a number of his later hymns appeared. The three books were afterward rearranged and combined, making a volume which has had a very wide circulation, and has greatly enriched modern hymnology.
In 1894 a number of Dr. Simpson's earliest poems were issued in a little volume, Millennial Chimes. This was the only book of poems which he published. Some songs that are not in the hymnal appeared in his periodicals, and a number were sent out as Christmas and New Year's messages. He wrote class songs for many of the graduating classes in the Missionary Institute, some of which, like Be True, have become widely popular. Larger Outlooks on Missionary Lands contains several of his finest missionary poems. Beautiful Japan was written as he left these "Islands of the Morning." Our hearts thrill with his as we read --
"Land of wondrous beauty, what a charm there lingers
Over every landscape, every flower and tree!
But a brighter glory waits to break upon you
Than your cloud-capped Mountain or your Inland Sea.
This is the Father's glory in the face of Jesus;
This is the blessed story of redeeming love.
Wake to meet the dawning of the heavenly sunrise!
Rise to hail the glory shining from above!"
Some of his unpublished poems have been collected recently and, together with old favorites, issued under the title. Songs of the Spirit. Quite a number still remain in manuscript. Here is the last stanza of one, entitled "The Star of Bethlehem"
"Bright Star, your coming must be near; The darkness of the dawn gives warning. Behold, the sky begins to clear! The night is almost gone -- Good Morning!"
Dr. Simpson wrote more than seventy books, but by far the greatest was the imprinted volume of a Christ- centered and Spirit-filled life. Of the making of this book he was keenly conscious when he wrote in the concluding words in his Commentary on Romans, "Beloved, the pages are going up every day for the record of our life. We are setting the type ourselves by every moment's action. Hands unseen are stereotyping the plates, and soon the record will be registered and read before the audience of the universe and amid the issues of eternity."
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.