A. B. Simpson (1843-1919) was one of the most important Christian workers of his day. He was an ardent soul-winner and was active in raising up new believers and in training Christian workers. He began his service as a Presbyterian minister, but later resigned after realizing the inherent frustrations in trying to serve the Lord within the denominational framework. He wrote over 70 books on the Bible and the Christian life. His many hymns and poems are full of inspiration and truth. He is known for preaching the "fourfold gospel," referring to Christ as Savior, Sanctifier, Healer, and coming King. He was the founder of the Christian and Missionary Alliance.
At the age of fourteen Albert encountered a spiritual and physical crisis. At this time he was considering his future and was torn between his dutiful feelings for the ministry and his pursuits and delights in the world. He tried to grope his way to God, knowing that he needed salvation. However, the God he knew up to that point was awesome and severe. He said, "My whole religious training had left me without any conception of the sweet and simple Gospel of Jesus Christ." In doctrine he knew that "only God could give in some mysterious way a wonderful change called the new birth or regeneration."
Albert completed his education at the age of 21 and applied to be a minister. He was examined by a board as to his character, spiritual experience, soundness of faith, and calling. Subsequently he was licensed as a Presbyterian minister. His mother's petition, the missionary's prayer, and his own heart's desire were finally fulfilled.
That Albert was a gifted speaker was apparent even when he was a young man. The young minister was receiving nods of approval by the Presbyterians, who carefully scrutinized both the message and the messenger. Albert, however, did not allow anyone to congratulate him on his eloquence or work. Later in life when another minister was about to commend him for inspiring his own ministry, Simpson interrupted and said, "That is all very well, but tell me something about what Christ has done for you."
The newly-licensed minister was offered two positions, one serving a small congregation and the other with a larger one. He describes his consideration and eventual conclusion to take the assignment with the larger congregation: "If I take the small church it will demand little, and I will give little. Result, stagnation; I will get soft and cease to grow. If I take the large church I will be compelled to rise to meet its heavier demands, and the very effort will develop the gifts of God that are in me. The small church may break me; the large church will certainly help to make me."
Simpson began to sense a burden for a new field of labor. After prayer and consideration, he accepted a new position with a congregation in the larger city of Louisville, Kentucky.
He arrived in Louisville shortly after the Civil War. Though the war had ended, many deep and bitter feelings remained in this city, which had both northern and southern sympathizers. Ironically, it was the Christians who were least inclined to forgive and move forward, and many denominations still carried the label "north" or "south" as a prominent part of their names.
After a few years in Louisville, Simpson once again felt a growing burden towards a larger field of service. By this time his field of concern had widened to include the uttermost parts of the earth. Aware of the great need with regard to foreign missions, he wanted to launch a new magazine that would give believers fresh information about what was happening on mission fields abroad. To do this in Louisville would be difficult; he knew such a venture should be located near a hub of missionary operations. His way became clear when he received an invitation to work with a congregation in New York City.
Simpson labored in his new assignment as he had before in Hamilton and Louisville. Some of the members in his congregation were revived and many new converts were added through his gospel service.
Simpson struggled, however, with the well-to-do New York congregation. He endeavored to bring them out of their exclusivity and to open their hearts to the needs of the masses around them. He was by and large unsuccessful at this. He continued to labor intensely, but the labor took its toll. He had always been in poor health, but after a little more than a year in New York, his health completely broke down, and he was forced to take a leave of absence. One prominent physician told him frankly that his days were numbered, and he fell into depression.
Simpson went away for a period of rest. While away, he visited an old-fashioned service where he listened to a simple Negro spiritual and his heart was "strangely lifted up." He felt some partial restoration, and therefore he returned to his duties in New York City. However, he was still not well and walked around as a tired old man, though he was only 37.
Many movements in North America were springing up at this time that undoubtedly influenced Simpson. There was a move in the gospel with evangelists like Finney and Moody. There was the holiness movement, the Pentecostal movement, and the modern missionary movement. Street meetings and rescue missions were springing up in several cities.
Another notable movement of the time was that of divine healing. A prominent figure in that movement was Dr. Charles Cullis, who sought to bring his patients back to health through the prayer of faith alone. Simpson visited one of his meetings and was impressed with the doctor and his teaching. After searching through the Bible, Simpson became convinced that healing was indeed a part of the accomplished work of Christ on the cross and that it should be a part of the gospel for a sinful and suffering world. Characteristic of Simpson, he was not satisfied with the doctrine alone; he wanted the experience. After some time of prayer, the Lord visited Simpson in his sick condition, healing his body and saving him from an early grave.
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