XXVI. THE MAN AS I KNEW HIM
By Frederic H. Senft
IT was my privilege to know our beloved brother, Rev. A, B. Simpson, for over thirty years. His name and one of his tracts along with other full Gospel literature were sent to me by a friend shortly after graduating from college. The Fourfold Gospel appealed to me at once. God led me to see these truths in His Word, and I found that his statement of doctrine agreed with my experience.
Returning from the South, I came to New York and visited his work. I had an interview with him, and heard him speak the first time in the Friday meeting, then held in a hall while the present Gospel Tabernacle was being built. At this meeting I first witnessed and participated in an anointing service, which was solemn and uplifting. Mr. Simpson spoke from the text: "If God be for us, who can be against us?" (Rom. 8:31).
I was much impressed by Mr. Simpson's serene, spiritual bearing, and my heart was drawn to him and to the testimony and work he represented. It was not through any persuasion on his part, but from settled conviction that I cast in my lot with this chosen people and work.
I sat under his teaching for a few months in what was then called The New York Missionary Training College. My wife, some three years before I met her, had the same privilege. She was baptized by Mr. Simpson in Lake Erie, at which time he remarked, "Why, Ruth, the Spirit of Christ is so real that He bathes us and seems as oil poured on the waters." He officiated at our marriage. So, as children in the Full Gospel and co-laborers, we have come in close fellowship with him for a score and a half years and have shared in the blessed benefits of his ripe experience, courtesy, and counsel.
People and means have been put at his disposal in answer to prayer. True, there have been all along the way persons attracted to the man, his message and leadership, who did not count the cost, and have dropped out for various reasons. This has been the record of other spiritual movements. A great convention with a magnificent offering for missions, has again and again attracted the onlooker, who has been caught in the popular wave and swept into the movement; but when the waters subsided, with the reproach of the Cross and the patient plodding without applause in view, some have fallen out of the ranks.
The best, the sweetest, and indeed all the resources of his many-sided life were always held at the disposal of His Master. It was surely true of him:
"Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all."
And as he, by the grace of God, followed faithfully and lived out the reality of such a complete consecration, God in His infinite love and unfailing faithfulness did the rest. He was controlled by a lofty purpose and high ideals; his whole being seemed to shun the selfish and the sordid. He ever sought to see and seize God's highest choice in all his relationships with God and his brethren, and to find and fill the perfect will of his Master. He practiced his own exhortations to others: "It is a blessed thing to have our life laid out and our Christian work adjusted to God's plan. Much spiritual force is expended in waste effort and scattered in indefinite and inconstant attempts at doing good." It was his highest ambition and chiefest delight to catch the thought of God, and obediently, loyally, and lovingly to fulfill it. He had learned the necessity of lingering in the mount with God to procure His pattern, and then go down to the hosts of the Lord with shining face and divine dignity and serenity to carry it out in deeds of love and abiding fruit. He found that hours of secluded meditation and holy exaltation v/before necessary for hours of patient plodding and the faithful performance of his Father's will and work.
There was apparently no self-consciousness in Dr. Simpson, as one came in contact with him in conversation or heard him in public address. His face, manners, and spirit, in the pulpit or in private, showed self-effacement to a degree that is rare. About twenty years ago, one who had become interested in our work in Philadelphia, after hearing him preach, remarked: "One does not see Dr. Simpson but the Christ whom he preaches and exemplifies; he is so completely lost in Christ and His message that he seems to be unconscious of himself and others." His was a crucified life. "For me to live is Christ," was his theme and the expression of his long life and labor. "Himself," the title of his most sought-after tract, was the keynote of his message.
Intelligent and highly cultured he was, yet there was no attempt to boast of his accomplishments or to make an impression upon those with whom he mingled or to whom he ministered. He held every God-given gift as a sacred trust to be used in deep humility as well as in unswerving fidelity. Wesley's memorable motto could be applied to him: "Simplify religion and every part of learning."
Again, in the ministry of the printed page, A. B. Simpson's plan was similar to John Wesley's, namely, "Cheaper, shorter, plainer books." Amid Wesley's other abundant labors it is said that "he found time to keep up a constant supply of pamphlets, tracts, and sermons, carried by his preachers to the remotest parts of the country, beside providing them with a large library, written or edited by himself." Surely a great heritage of most helpful literature has also been left for those who follow our beloved leader, and for the whole Church of Christ.
Dr. Simpson was a good listener. This added much to his companionableness and to the interest with which others listened to him. It is difficult to talk with some people -- one feels ill at ease because of their evident eagerness to occupy all the time. Hear his own words on this point: "How unseemly it would be for us in the presence of an earthly superior to monopolize all the conversation. The best conversationalist is the best listener." He had a rare gift of speech, using well-chosen words that flowed with fascinating freedom from his lips. He was at times witty, but with a high order of humor, having a noble purpose in view. He could tell a story with rare skill and abiding effect, especially in his public messages and in his printed sermons and books. Nothing was lacking in the aptness of his illustrations and the effectiveness of the application. Certain of his illustrations and their pertinent use are still remembered though given a score or more of years ago.
Brother Simpson possessed unusual qualities both of heart and mind, rarely found so highly developed in the same individual. Although he was gifted with more than ordinary powers, yet he exhibited beautiful humility, as well as practical wisdom in counseling with his brethren in the work, and profiting by the judgment even of those much younger than himself. He had an inspiring personality, a keen knowledge of people, a rare combination of dignity and simplicity, and a gentle spirit and manner.
One of the marked inwrought gifts of the Spirit was his winsome way of presenting truth and giving personal testimony. Many have gone to hear him preach who were prejudiced, having preconceived and distorted opinions regarding the man and his message. But his sweetness of spirit, Scriptural argument, and convincing logic disarmed and won the biased hearer, often making him a staunch friend and supporter. True, there were extremists who, at times, came to his meetings, or sought a private interview with him -- those who had some fad or fancy to present. But with what rare tact and tenderness he dealt with such persons! Thus he saved a public ministry of exceptional power and blessing from being side-tracked into discussion and division. Firmness mingled with gentleness and true greatness often won the day for truth and righteousness.
He had a remarkable range of practical knowledge and his answers to questions were always an interesting feature in the conventions. The "Question Box" and the question hour were occasions of rare privilege to the eager congregations. Some would take advantage of this to ask "catch questions" or to air some idiosyncrasy. These were usually answered or dismissed in a sentence, giving time for the sincere seekers after light. Some of these questions and answers have been preserved, as Inquiries and Answers Concerning Divine Healing, a pamphlet which has been of inestimable help to many honest inquirers.
Another gift of God's grace bestowed upon our beloved brother was the perfect ease with which he entered into the condition and confidence of one seeking counsel or spiritual help. His approachable attitude and the brotherly atmosphere which he radiated made the seeker after help to feel free in his presence. A well-known Christian worker said of him: "He was the most gracious person I ever met." His deep piety did not produce awe and uneasiness, but showed itself in sweet simplicity. His intuitive and acquired knowledge of people, their problems, heart yearnings, and physical needs, enabled him to probe the vital point, and through words of counsel, and prevailing prayer, to bring down heaven's help, and healing. He did not spare himself at all; he lived for others without a trace of self-interest.
In his silence under criticism and persecution one could not fail to see in him the marks of highest manhood, wise method, and rare spirituality. He had the spirit of the One "Who opened not his mouth." He met opposition, misrepresentation, and persecution of all sorts and degrees, especially in the earlier years of his career when he separated from his church and former friends and became an exponent of the Fourfold Gospel. But to all assailants he "answered not a word." Like Nehemiah he was doing a great work, and could not come down to answer the railings of the wary, world-inspired troublers -- usually those of the Pharisaic element of the professed Church. It seemed his devotion increased as difficulties and persecutions pressed him closer to the bosom of his Master who, by His power, turned the curse into a blessing.
The ceaseless round of duties left him little time for rest and recreation. For thirty-five years he scarcely knew the meaning of a holiday. His capacity for continuous hard work was remarkable. The summer season, when ministers usually have a vacation, was his busiest time -- going from one great convention to another for the week-end, then back to New York to catch up with accumulated work.
However, to rest his mind and refresh his body, he diverted himself at times in the evenings by working in the garden or by turning to mechanical work, making fine models for homes at Nyack Heights, and other devices. He had an inventive and mechanical mind. As a boy he knew how to plow and do other service on the farm. He was fond of astronomy, and had a small observatory near his home where with a large telescope he taught the students the wonders of the heavens. These diversions from the crowded hours in his New York office, a very humble place on noisy Eighth Avenue, served as a tonic for his arduous labors which touched the ends of the earth.
As was said of McCheyne, he excelled in prayer. Who can forget the ardent prayers coming from the depths of dear Dr. Simpson's soul and reaching to the throne of God, bringing down untold blessing upon innumerable lives! The months of his infirmity were filled with prayer day and night. It was my privilege to stay with him for several nights during the first part of his break-down when he needed prayerful support in the night seasons. How the spirit of ''prayer and supplication with thanksgiving" would be poured out, not for himself so much as for others! Then God would come in comforting blessing and soon he would sleep as a child on its mother's bosom. This was the choicest privilege of my thirty years' association with him."
Upon calling to see him in his room at headquarters, New York, a few months before he passed away, I found him in bed, weak in body but alert in mind. Sheets of paper were about him on the bed. He had been jotting down thoughts, though scarcely able to write. During these months he led several of the midweek meetings in the Tabernacle. Coming from one of the services, a shade of regret came over him, and he seemed much burdened as he said to Rev. E. B. Fitch, the assistant pastor, "1 fear that sufficient preparation was not made for that message." His state of body and mind, no doubt, had much to do with this remark; but it indicated his habit of painstaking care and prayer in preparing for his public work. He often told me while in meetings together and in our home, I must wait on God for a fresh message for this service." Dr. Henry C. McBride, an old friend and early helper in the work, said to me once, after hearing him preach: "In all these many years, I have never heard Dr. Simpson repeat a sermon -- always something fresh, fragrant, and satisfying."
Dr. Simpson was a forceful and fascinating preacher. His expositions of Scripture were profound yet simple. His whole soul was poured into his message; true eloquence flowed from his heart and lips, carrying his hearers with him in unbroken and intense interest for an hour or more as he preached the glorious Gospel. He probably had no superior in missionary appeal. There was a manifest spirit of sweetness and strength in his messages, a charm of expression, clear and convincing argument, and powerful application of the truth that has transformed lives and embued them with the spirit of the Christ of Calvary.
At a large summer convention, Dr. Simpson preached one of his characteristic sermons, sweeping through the Scriptures, illustrating and enforcing his theme with powerful inspiration and conviction. Sitting with one of our oldest and ablest workers, one thought in common was expressed: "Well, there seems to be nothing left for any one to say on that subject; the whole ground has been covered;" and we felt as if it was hardly worth while for any one to attempt to follow on any subject. One of the leading ministers of Philadelphia, after hearing Mr. Simpson preach at our Annual Convention, which was held in his church, remarked: "We will not hear another such sermon until Dr. Simpson returns to this city."
Notwithstanding his busy life, he took time for careful preparation for his public messages. They were steeped in prayer. He says in his Testimony, "I have found the same divine help for my mind and brain as for my body. Having much writing and speaking to do, I have given my pen and my tongue to Christ to possess and use, and He has so helped me that my literary work has never been a labor. He has enabled me to think much more rapidly and to accomplish much more work and with greater facility than ever before. It is very simple and humble work, but such as it is, it is all through Him, and, I trust, for Him only. To Him be all the praise."
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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