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New Covenant Youth Ministry

Henry Ironside - Part 2henry ironside

It was in 1903 that he received his first invitation from the East, from believers in St. Cloud, Minnesota. On their way home they only had funds to take them as far as Salt Lake City, Utah. So they disembarked, obtained accommodations in a very inexpensive hotel. For 10 days Harry spent every day and night visiting, distributing tracts from door to door and street preaching. Ironside had little response spiritually and none financially, so he sold a set of his books to a Baptist preacher to pay his hotel bill. The 40 cents a day allotted for food ran out. Harry grabbed his wife's hand and prayed, "O Lord, we claim this promise. We two agreed to ask for this forty cents. If we do not receive it, I shall never believe this verse again." He went into the streets, preached for forty minutes to a good crowd of 300. After the service,

discouraged, he was on his way to the hotel, when two men ran after him, asked him how he lived, was told he just trusted the Lord. They put coins in his palm and left. He was going to return the coins when he found out they were Mormon elders, but they hurried off. He counted the coins — 40 cents. The next morning he got a letter with $15 from some who felt impressed that they needed money. They could now go home to Oakland.

In 1904 an unusual conversion happened as the family was traveling through northwestern Canada on a train. A Franciscan priest joined Ironside and the conversation began. It was a marvelous conversion before it was all over that Ironside often related.

A second son, John Schofield, was born on August 18, 1905, and thereafter the mother, and firstborn who had traveled with him almost all the time, was confined to their home to rear the children.

He already was beginning to write: his first expository notes appeared in 1900, Notes on Esther. Notes on Jeremiah in 1902, Notes on the Minor Prophets in 1904 and Notes on the Book of Proverbs appeared in 1906. His writings would make him one of the most prolific authors in the Christian field in the 20th century.

Soon he was teaching at the Mount Hermon Bible Conference each summer. Then in 1911 he began his annual summer ministry to the American Indians — at the Southeast Missionary Bible Conference near Flagstaff, Arizona.

He continued to write; in 1910 came his Notes on Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther, in 1911 Lectures on Daniel the Prophet came out and in 1912 his famous book — Holiness, the False and the True.

On June 1, 1914, he rented a store and started the Western Book and Tract Company. His books were not being in much demand, and he needed some sort of headquarters for them. This went well until the depression [in] the late 1920s.

From 1916 to 1929, Ironside was constantly on the move, preaching nearly 7,000 times to some 1¼ million people. No vacations, always busy, even in sickness and weariness. In 1918 he preached at the Old Tent Evangel in New York City for George McPherson, which opened up further doors of contact. In 1924 he began to accept meetings under the direction of the Moody Bible InstituteThis relationship deepened through the years. In his "free" months he was engaged by the Brethren assemblies or by other local congregations. In 1926 Dallas Theological Seminary asked him to come for seven months a year as a full-time faculty member, but it had to be turned down, although he was visiting lecturer from 1925 to 1943. A daughter, Lillian, was born to Edmund [Ironside's son] in 1920, but because of the illness of the mother who died of tuberculosis not long afterwards, was adopted by the grandparents— the Henry Ironsides. The father later remarried, served the Lord as Superintendent of the Southern Bible Institute, a school for colored people in Dallas. In December of 1929 Ironside held his third series of services at Moody Memorial Church, and after 11 months absence arrived home in Oakland on December 22nd to see his family. In two weeks he was gone again. He now began his ministry at the Moody Founder's Week Conference in February, 1930. On February 17th his diary states, "Then downtown for a conference with Thomas S. Smith and another elder of the Moody Church, relative to possibly being called to be the minister there." He had preached there in 1925 and 1926 plus the above mentioned time. He had already been approached in 1929 since the resignation of Dr. P. Philpott. He finally agreed that if he got an unanimous call he would come for a one-year trial period. On March 5, the call was unanimous. On March 8th he accepted. On March 16th he preached his first sermon there — his diary speaks:

My first Lord's Day as pastor of Moody Church
At 9:15 a.m. a few of us broke bread in the feast of remembrance in church study.
At 10:45 I preached on I Cor. 2:2. 3,500 present and there was a serious impression.
Dinner with the Herrings
At 5:50 I spoke briefly to the C.C. Club in Torrey Hall, on "Life at Best."
At 7:30 I preached on "God's Salvation and the Scorner's Doom." 2 Kings 7, to about 3,700 people.
Five confessed Christ.

He would wind up his affairs in Oakland in late August, and on December 31, 1930 Mrs. Ironside and Lillian were finally able to join him. They took up their residence in the Plaza Hotel, right across from the Church.

There was hardly a Sunday that went by from that time on that did not have decisions or a capacity audience to hear Ironside. A pattern set that continued until he left the Church. Ironside would leave Chicago by train late Sunday night to minister in some other city, returning usually on Saturday morning for the Sunday services at Moody Church. This would be 40 weeks a year, traveling 30,000 miles annually. Frequently Saturdays and whatever few other days in Chicago were taken up with callers, committee meetings and correspondence.

In 1932 he took his first trip outside the USA as he ministered on a boat cruise from Bermuda to Nova Scotia. In 1933 there was a Century of Progress Campaign held in the summer. In November, 1935, Ironside preached the funeral of Billy Sunday at Moody Church. His sermon was, "Billy Sunday's Spiritual History — Without Christ; In Christ; For Christ; With Christ." In February, 1936, he took his first overseas trip — to Palestine. Thirty days were spent preaching in the British Isles, and the Ironsides arrived back at New York on April 30th. Three more trips to the British Isles followed, in 1937, 1938 and 1939. Britain was participating in the Moody Centennial in 1937, and Will Houghton, MBI President asked Ironside and Mel Trotter to go to Europe. Leaving January 29, they had great meetings. On the night of their arrival of February 5th, Ironside preached on Romans 1:16 to 10,000 at Royal Albert Hall. He was to speak 62 times in his 32 days there. He arrived home on march 14th.

Beginning with the first week of 1938, Ironside became the writer of the International Sunday School Lessons, published in the Sunday School Times. In the fall of 1938, he left again, this time from Montreal on August 19th, accompanied by Stratton Shufelt, music director of Moody Church. This was a tour of Ireland, Scotland, and England. Ironside spoke 142 times. They were in Glasgow for nearly a month, with crowds averaging 3,000 per night, with many saved. A ten-day series in London in Kingsway Hall finalized the stay. Crowds of 2,000 attended each night. He left for home on November 12th. In 1939 the purpose of the trip to England was 1½ months of well needed rest, and then to be one of the speakers at English Keswick. They left New York May 24th and returned August 1st. From 1939 to 1944 he continued his travels in every direction averaging some 500 sermons per year. His son Edmund died July 25, 1941, with the father preaching the funeral service. In 1942 he became president of the Africa Inland Mission.

When Ironside took the pastorate of the 4,000 member Moody Church in 1930, the indebtedness was $319,500. At the Watch Night Service, December 31, 1943, the last note of indebtedness was burned, during which time the home outreach and foreign missions programs increased — amazing for the fact that he was only home two days a week. When he was gone on Sundays, the crowd would be down. His daughter that he raised, Lillian, married Gilbert Koppin on June 10, 1944. A crowning evangelistic campaign was held February 10-27, 1944, back "home" in Oakland, California. Services were held in the Oakland Civic Auditorium Theatre. Crowds started at 1,300 and ended with 2,500 with many saved. Ironside was now beginning to tire as he approached 70, not that the age was so great, but simply keep in mind that he had been preaching continually since age 14 with hardly any break.

Pastor and Mrs. Ironside were able to celebrate their Golden Wedding Anniversary together, January 5, 1948, to be soon followed by the death of Mrs. Ironside on May 1, 1948. Dr. Ironside resigned as pastor on May 30,1948, and his farewell services were held at the church, October 27th and October 31st. During his first 14 years there, only two Sundays went by without seeing somebody saved. He had been a member of the faculty of Moody Bible Institute in later years as well.

He then retired to Winona Lake, Indiana. He married Mrs. Ann Hightower on October 9,1949, who became his constant companion and helper during his few remaining months of failing eyesight. An operation restored his vision and he set out for New Zealand on November 2, 1950. He visited with his sister, Mrs. Robert A. Laidlaw and planned a preaching tour, but death claimed him and at his own request was buried there. His other son John died January 19, 1957.

His books poured forth through the years, too numerous to mention here. Over 80 volumes have come from his pen. A D.L. degree had come from Wheaton in June 1930, and on June 3, 1942 Bob Jones University granted him an honorary D.D. degree. Many pulpits would not consider a boy with an 8th grade education, but little is much— when God is in it.

His writings included addresses or commentaries on the entire New Testament, all of the prophetic books of the Old Testament, and a great many volumes on specific Bible themes and subjects. Some of his later titles include Things Seen and Heard in Bible Lands, Lamp of Prophecy, Changed by Beholding, The Way of Peace, and The Great Parenthesis.

Almost lost in the seemingly more important phases of his ministry is the fact that he is the author of the well known hymn, Overshadowed.


Words and music: H. A. Ironside and George S. Schuler
How desolate my life would be,
How dark and dreary my nights and days,
If Jesus' face I did not see,
To brighten all earth's weary ways
I'm overshadowed by His mighty love
Love eternal, changeless pure.
Overshadowed by His mighty love
Rest is mine, serene, secure.
He died to ransom me from sin,
He lives to keep me day by day,
I'm overshadowed by his mighty love,
Love that brightens all my way.
With burdened heart I wandered long,

By grief and unbelief distressed;
But now I sing faith's happy song,
In Christ my Savior I am blest.
Now judgment fears no more alarm,

I dread no death, nor Satan's power;
The world for me has lost its charm,

God's grace sustains me every hour.