Who's Who in Pentecost > Simpson, Albert Benjamin (CMA)


Rev. Albert Benjamin Simpson

Christian & Missionary Alliance

1843 ~ 1919

Albert Simpson was the third son and fourth child of James Simp­son, Jr., and Janet Clark. His family’s strict Cal­vin­is­tic Scot­tish Pres­by­ter­i­an and Pur­i­tan back­ground formed Albert’s view of his spir­it­u­al stand­ing. It sent him search­ing un­til he ap­par­ent­ly had to seek his doctor’s advice as a youth. Al­bert was al­so un­doubt­ed­ly ex­posed to sol­id Christ­ian class­ics, as were ma­ny in the spir­it­u­al tra­di­tions of the time. It is known that he read Marshall’s Gos­pel Mys­te­ry of Sal­va­tion (1692), which brought the 15-year-old youth to a ba­lanced un­der­stand­ing of sal­va­tion and Christ­ian ho­li­ness.

One influence on Simpson’s miss­ion­a­ry fer­vor may have been Rev. John Ged­die. In 1847, Ged­die went to the New He­bri­des in the South Pa­cif­ic as a mis­sion­ary; re­port­ed­ly a whole isl­and turned to Christ un­der his min­is­try. The Ged­die me­mor­ial in Prince Ed­ward Isl­and says, When he ar­rived in 1848, there were no Christ­ians; when he left in 1872, there were no hea­then.

After fin­ish­ing high school, Al­bert taught for a while to earn mon­ey to en­ter Knox Coll­ege at the Un­i­ver­si­ty of To­ron­to. At age 21, he grad­u­at­ed and re­ceived calls to two church­es. One was a small rur­al con­gre­ga­tion, the other the large Knox Pres­by­ter­ian Church in Hamil­ton, On­tar­io. He wrest­led be­tween these calls, fin­al­ly choos­ing Knox Pres­by­ter­ian so God could use him as wide­ly as pos­si­ble. Af­ter eight years of high­ly suc­cess­ful min­is­try and the ad­di­tion of 750 new church mem­bers, it was said He was se­cond to none in el­o­quence and abil­i­ty and suc­cess in his min­is­try (A. E. Thomp­son, A. B. Simp­son, His Life and Work, Christ­ian Pub­li­ca­tions).

In De­cem­ber 1873, Simp­son was called to the pul­pit of the larg­est Pres­by­ter­i­an church in Louis­ville, Ken­tucky, the Chest­nut Street Pres­by­ter­i­an Church. There he joined ci­ty wide evan­gel­is­tic en­dea­vors which opened his eyes to a more ac­tive evan­gel­is­tic min­is­try of his own. A let­ter writ­ten by Simpson’s fa­ther in 1877 to a ne­phew speaks of his two sons, Howard and Albert:

In re­sponse to your re­quest I will give you a brief ac­count of our fam­i­ly. My two old­est sons as you are aware are Min­is­ters of the Gos­pel. How­ard is in the City of Ma­di­son, In­di­ana and Al­bert is in Louis­ville, Ken­tucky. Both are well pro­vid­ed for with re­gard to the things of this world…I trust they are both la­bor­ing faith­ful­ly and suc­cess­ful­ly. Albert in­deed is kill­ing him­self with hard la­bor have es­tabl­ished mis­sion sta­tions through the whole Ci­ty which has a pop­u­la­tion of 150,000 and 30,000 of who go to no place of wor­ship. His own Con­gre­ga­tion has dou­bled since he went to it three years ago.

After five years and reach­ing a pla­teau of min­i­stry in Louis­ville, Al­bert was called to New York Ci­ty to pas­tor the Thir­teenth Street Pres­by­ter­i­an Church. There he was drawn to the mass­es of im­mi­grant pop­u­la­tion; in­deed, he found a miss­ion field at his door. Af­ter lead­ing 100 or so Ital­i­an im­mi­grants to Christ, his con­gre­ga­tion sug­gest­ed that they might find ano­ther church to at­tend. Simp­son de­cid­ed then that God was call­ing him to a diff­er­ent work and he left to b­egin his min­is­try to the mass­es in New York.

God’s call on Simpson’s life re­sult­ed in a two­fold vision. First, the mes­sage of the full­ness of Christ and its cen­tral­i­ty of Christ in doc­trine was his Bib­li­cal mes­sage. This be­came what he called the Four­fold Gos­pel: Je­sus Christ our Sav­ior, Sanc­ti­fied, Heal­er, and Com­ing King. Simp­son at­trib­ut­ed the term, Four­fold Gos­pel, to a sug­gest­ion of the Ho­ly Spir­it at the open­ing of the 1890 con­ven­tion at the New York Gos­pel Tab­er­nacle. This formula­tion has been used by the As­sem­blies of God as well as the Four Square churches. Second, a vi­sion of a lost and per­ish­ing world com­pelled Simp­son to send his first mis­sion­ary evan­gel­is­tic teams to the Con­go. Simp­son’s be­lief and stra­te­gy were that Spir­it filled peo­ple liv­ing a Christ like life become ac­tive ser­vants. The out­come of these twin vi­sions was the de­vel­op­ment his Christ cen­tered mes­sage and the ex­ten­sion of his lo­cal church’s min­is­try in­to what has be­come to­day the Christ­ian and Mis­sion­ary Al­li­ance (CAMA).

For Simp­son, the min­is­try was all en­com­pass­ing. He wrote once about how he was being di­vin­ely led in de­vel­op­ment of his lo­cal church min­is­try:

He is show­ing us the plan for a Christ­ian church that is much more than an as­so­ci­a­tion of con­gen­i­al friends to lis­ten once a week to an in­tel­lect­u­al dis­course and mus­ic­al en­ter­tain­ment and car­ry on by proxy a mech­a­nism of Christ­ian work; but ra­ther a church that can be at once the mo­ther and home of ev­e­ry form of help and bless­ing which Je­sus came to give to lost and suf­fer­ing men, the birth­place and the home of souls, the foun­tain of heal­ing and cleans­ing, the shel­ter­ing home for the or­phan and dis­tressed, the school for the cul­ture and train­ing of God’s child­ren, the ar­mory where they are equipped for the bat­tle of the Lord and the ar­my which fights those bat­tles in His name. Such a cen­ter of pop­u­la­tion in this sad and sin­ful world!

A Larger Christ­ian Life, Albert Simpson

On another oc­ca­sion, in a quite sim­i­lar tone, Simp­son wrote,

We should aim to bring all the work of God with­in the sphere of the church of Christ. There is room not on­ly for the wor­ship of God, the teach­ing of sa­cred truth and the evan­gel­iz­a­tion of the lost, but al­so for eve­ry phase of prac­ti­cal phi­lan­thro­py and use­ful­ness. There may be, in per­fect keep­ing with the sim­ple or­der and dig­ni­ty of the church of God, the most ag­gres­sive work for the mass­es and the wid­est we­lcome for ev­ery class of sin­ful

men; the min­is­try of heal­ing for the sick and suf­fer­ing ad­min­is­tered in the name of Je­sus; the most com­plete pro­vi­sion for char­i­ta­ble re­lief; in­dus­tri­al train­ing and so­cial el­e­va­tion for the de­grad­ed class­es; work­shops for the un­em­ployed; homes for the or­phaned; shel­ter for the home­less; mis­sions for the hea­then; and ev­ery agen­cy need­ed to make the church of God the light of the world and mo­ther of the suf­fer­ing and lost. And there is no work that will be more glor­i­fy­ing to God than a church that will em­brace just such fea­tures and com­plete­ness. May the Lord help us yet to real­ize the vi­sion, and pre­sent at His own bles­sed com­ing His own fair bride and her mul­ti­tudes of child­ren.

But as so­cial­ly mind­ed as these state­ments sound, Simp­son nur­tured a deep pas­sion for the evan­gel­iz­a­tion of earth in his ear­ly fol­low­ers. He said,

living men; so that ev­ery­one may have the op­por­tun­i­ty of sal­va­tion, and the Bride of Christ may be ga­thered in from all na­tions, tribes and tongues, the ful­ness of the Gen­tiles brought in, and the way ful­ly pre­pared for the Lord’s re­turn.

In his powerful hymn, The Miss­ionary Cry, he wrote,

The Mas­ter’s coming draweth near.
The Son of Man will soon appear,
His Kingdom is at hand.
But ere that glorious day can be,
The Gos­pel of the Kingdom, we
Must preach in every land.

In bring­ing about the birth of the CAMA, Simp­son was not seek­ing a de­nom­in­a­tion, but a tool for world evan­gel­iz­a­tion. He saw his mis­sion’s or­gan­iz­a­tion as the Lord’s way of hast­en­ing His own speedy re­turn. Hence his cry to equal­ly, fair­ly and speed­i­ly take the Gos­pel to all the peo­ples of the earth. Then the end would come and the King would re­ceive his own. The oft­en re­port­ed an­ec­dote in­volv­ing a re­port­er from the New York Journ­al clear­ly shows his an­ti­ci­pa­tion of the Se­cond Com­ing and how to hast­en it.

The re­port­er asked Dr. Simp­son, Do you know when the Lord is coming?

Yes, he re­plied, and I will tell you if you prom­ise to print just what I say, ref­er­enc­es and all.

The reporter’s poised note­book gave the rea­dy prom­ise.

Then put this down: This gos­pel of the king­dom shall be preached in all the world for a wit­ness un­to the na­tions and then shall the end come. Mat­thew 24:14. Have you written the ref­er­ence?

Yes, what more?

Nothing more.

The re­port­er low­ered his pen­cil and said, Do you mean to say that you bel­ieve that when the Go­spel is preached to all the na­tions Je­sus will re­turn?

Just that.

I think I begin to see the day­light, an­swered the re­port­er. I see the mo­tiv­a­tion and the mo­tive pow­er in this move­ment.

Then, Simpson said, you see more than some of the doctors of divinity.

This spir­it of seek­ing the lost pro­pelled the Al­li­ance into lead­er­ship in world mis­sions. The be­lief that evan­gel­iz­a­tion could has­ten the Se­cond Com­ing fired a pas­sion. In its ear­li­est days this pas­sion con­sumed its lead­er­ship at na­tion­al and lo­cal church lev­els. While Simp­son was alive, he main­tained a close hand on the pur­poses and act­ions of the move­ment, his move­ment. In the years since his death in 1919, the CAMA moved from a move­ment formed in the min­is­try of a sin­gle in­di­vid­u­al to a “mis­sion­ary de­nom­in­a­tion.” Ma­ny re­gret the pass­ing of a sin­gle vi­sion move­ment to a mul­ti­vi­sioned or­gan­ized church body. But the roots of ma­ny de­nom­in­a­tion­al­like ac­tiv­i­ties are found in Simp­son’s own mult­i­vi­sioned ap­proach to his min­is­try in New York Ci­ty. Heal­ing homes with their fo­cus on spir­it­u­al re­new­al and pray­er for the sick res­i­dents may be viewed as per­haps a short term ver­sion of our mo­dern nurs­ing homes and re­tire­ment cen­ters. His ex­pand­ed vi­sion for an ed­u­ca­tion­al sys­tem from high school through a un­i­ver­si­ty was cer­tain­ly the pre­cursor of the five col­leges and two sem­in­ar­ies in the US and Ca­na­dian church­es of the CAMA. The near­ly 25% of US mem­ber­ship in eth­nic con­gre­ga­tions, speak­ing as ma­ny as 19 lan­guages on a Sun­day morn­ing would make his heart leap with joy. Cer­tain­ly the de­vel­op­ment agen­cy, CAMA Serv­ices, serv­ing in sev­er­al coun­tries, doubt­less match­es the heart­beat of Simpson’s vi­sion of a lo­cal church min­is­try. A mil­i­tary chap­lain­cy ef­fort well be­yond the US Armed Serv­ices’ ex­pec­ta­tion for a small de­nom­in­a­tion has been marked with re­mark­a­ble lead­er­ship by CAMA chap­lains. A church loan pro­gram that is near­ing $100 mil­lion in­vest­ed by CAMA pe­ople for the de­ve­lop­ment of new and strong­er Al­li­ance church­es in the US. A tri­en­nial youth con­vo­ca­tion with more than 6,000 youth that fo­cus­es on evan­gel­ism and deep­er life of youth peo­ple chal­lenges them with calls to Christ­ian min­is­tries and builds a pool of re­cruits for church min­is­tries. As he said, “There is room not on­ly for the wor­ship of God, the teach­ing of sac­red truth and the evan­gel­iz­a­tion of the lost, but al­so for ev­ery phase of prac­ti­cal phil­an­thro­py and use­ful­ness.”

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