Harry A Ironside passed from time into eternity during a visit to New Zealand, on January 16, 1951.
Born in Toronto, Canada, October 14, 1876, Harry Ironside grew up in the Plymouth Brethren movement. His parents were eager soul-winners, and his dad was known as “The Eternity Man” because he frequently asked people, “Where will you spend eternity?” However he died at age 27, when Harry was only 2 years old.
Harry’s mum also had a newborn baby and so she struggled to maintain her infant family. What Harry lacked in finance and education he made up in abundance in his religious inclinations. However, he had not found true salvation.
When the family moved to San Francisco, when he was ten, he even started a local Sunday School and preached to average crowds of 60, including some adults. When he heard Dwight L Moody preach in his city to a packed Pavilion, Harry prayed that he would one day have a similar ministry. 42 years later he became pastor of the church which Moody founded.
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In 1889 an old evangelist friend of the family, Donald Munro, challenged Ironside that the boy’s preaching did not make him a Christian. This so impacted Ironside that gave up his Sunday School and struggled for six months over the issue of his salvation.
In February 1990, at age 13, he trusted in the truth of Proverbs 1:24-32, and confessed Christ as his saviour.
Soon after his conversion Ironside joined the Salvation Army and won his first convert in the open air preaching. Then with six months of training he was commissioned as Lieutenant. Later, during General Booth’s visit to San Francisco, he became “Special Orderly Officer to the General”, and Captain. “General Booth influenced me more than anyone else …” he testified later, “with the need of reaching the lost for Christ.”
Ironside worked full time around California, preaching and working for the Salvation Army. But whilst wholeheartedly agreeing with the Salvationists on their evangelistic emphasis, Harry found it difficult to agree with their teaching concerning Holiness, the Second Blessing. He saw that the Salvationists looked for personal holiness from within themselves, when it came from the work of Christ. He was almost burned out after five years of constant and vigorous work for the Army.
So he resigned, and for 30 years became widely known as a Brethren evangelist and Bible teacher.
He helped British evangelist, Henry Varley’s San Francisco campaign in 1897and there took an interest in the pianist, Helen Schofield, who was also an ex-Salvation Army member. The couple were wed on January 5, 1898 and a year later their family started. That union lasted for fifty years.
The life of an evangelist was taxing. In the years from 1916 to 1929, Ironside was constantly on the move, preaching nearly 7,000 times to over one million people. He had no vacations and was always busy, even in sickness and weariness.
In 1930 he became pastor of the famous Moody Memorial Church, and also travelled extensively to speak at conventions. Most weeks he would leave Chicago on a Sunday night and not return until the following Saturday, so he could preach on Sunday.
He also accepted frequent ministry invitations in Britain, and also travelled to Europe and Palestine
Thirty books came from his able pen. His writings make him one of the most prolific Christian authors in the 20th century.
He was related, by marriage, to Mr Robert Laidlaw, well-known New Zealand businessman and author of The Reason Why.
Ironside is described as one of the greatest Bible teachers the world has ever known and the most known Christian leader of his era, outside of Billy Sunday whose funeral he preached. He was affectionately known as “the archbishop of Fundamentalism”.
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This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: www.donaldprout.com