Harry Ironside’s first commentary on a book of the Bible was published in 1905 by Loizeaux Brothers. Twenty-five years later, when HAI assumed the pastorate of Moody Church, he had written many volumes: thirty-two clothbound books and twelve booklets, a total of forty-four titles. This was only a beginning. From 1930 to 1948, when he resigned as Moody Church’s pastor, he turned out thirty-eight additional volumes—twenty-six major books plus a dozen pamphlets. Ironside’s final commentary, The Prophet Isaiah, was finished only several weeks before his death and was published posthumously in 1952, about which more will be said in due course. Even though some of his one hundred titles,17 specifically his expositions of Bible books, were taken down stenographically or on tapes from messages delivered at Moody Church, Ironside was obliged still to edit the manuscripts before they were sent to the publishers.
The distribution of Harry’s books is remarkable and is still going on after a quarter century. A fair estimate would be that the total sales of his expository and miscellaneous volumes equals well over a million copies. In addition, perhaps 750,000 booklets, pamphlets, and tracts have been circulated. Six institutions have published HAI’s writings: American Tract Society, William B. Eerdmans, Loizeaux Brothers, Moody Press, Fleming H. Re veil, and Zondervan Publishing House.
The relationship between H. A. Ironside and his major publisher, Loizeaux Brothers, who brought out all but fifteen of his writings, lasted for about a half century. It was uniquely personal. Through the years all the Loizeauxs who have been directly connected with the business have been warm friends of HAI, especially P. Daniel Loizeaux, second-generation head. In a desire to perpetuate the purpose of the founders, he relinquished ownership of the firm, which was then reorganized as a nonprofit religious corporation. Both the firm and the author were born the same year, 1876. The Christian witness was contiguous. In 1948 Elie Loizeaux, who had been saved under Dr. Ironside’s ministry at the Old Tent Evangel in New York, was the third generation to assume leadership. He invited HAI to send a greeting to the directors at their annual meeting. Dr. Ironside recorded a message, which is cited below in part.
I count it a privilege to have this opportunity of sending a word of greeting to the directors of Loizeaux Brothers, Incorporated. As you all know, I have been closely identified with your publishing house for nearly half a century, from the time that you published my first title book, Notes on the Book of Esther, right up to the present day. During this time almost fifty volumes have been brought out by you and I certainly appreciate the fine spirit of cooperation and the high Christian standards that have always been maintained by your firm. I pray most earnestly that in these days of business perplexity, when so much is needed in the way of rearrangement, that all needed wisdom will be given in order that you may continue the marvelous ministry that God has given you, of getting out books and pamphlets on Biblical subjects that will be the means of blessing to untold thousands of God’s people throughout this and other lands. . .
I wonder if there will not be a wonderful revelation at the, judgment seat of Christ when you see the many, many people who have been brought to a saving knowledge of our blessed Lord through your literature. That certainly will be a great reward, a crown of rejoicing in that day. . . .
Just at present I am in Dallas, Texas, where for two weeks I am giving lectures on the book of Revelation to the students of the theological seminary here. ... A number of these young men will be going out as missionaries to various foreign lands and others will be pastors and evangelists in the homeland and over in Canada. The truths they are learning here and the right things that are embodied in the books you publish will be used by them in passing on the Word to others. I have been particularly pleased to notice how interested many of them are in having such sets as C.H.M.’s Notes and J. N. Darby’s Synopsis of the Books of the Bible and F. W. Grant’s series of The Numerical Bible. If their hearts and minds are filled with the truth that is embodied in these books there is no telling how God may use them in ministering to others in days to come. . .
May the Lord bless you, give you a good time together as you wait before Him, and lead and guide in all future planning and arrangements.
H. A. IRONSIDE
Dr. Ironside never accepted royalties for his own use but instructed his publishers to withhold his fees and, upon notification from him, to send gift copies of his books to ministers, missionaries, students, and others whom he might designate. Moreover, in several instances he requested Loizeaux Brothers to contribute from his balance in their hands specified amounts of money to the free literature fund of the Western Book and Tract Company.
In 1942, when Harry was named president of the Africa Inland Mission,18 he sent a form letter to every one of the nearly 300 A.I.M. missionaries on the field, offering to supply them without charge any of his books they might request. When the late Ralph T. Davis, who was at that time general secretary of the mission, saw this letter, he said to Dr. Ironside, “I wish I were on the field so that I might take advantage of this generous proposal.” As quick as a wink Harry replied, “Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.”
There were occasions when Ironside was irked, even hurt, when he realized someone was taking advantage of him. For instance, after a church service he might promise to send a set of books to a student who professed to be rather hard up, only to observe, a few minutes later, the young man driving away in a shiny new car. But such experiences were not many and did not deter HAI from pursuing his established practice. He said he was willing to be misused by a few in order that a multitude might be helped along the way.
Two books that Harry wrote during the Moody Church years deserve special comment. The first is entitled Except Ye Repent. In 1936 the American Tract Society offered a prize of $1,000 for the best treatise on one or more essential evangelical doctrines of the Christian faith. The contest was open to all and closed on August 31 of that year. Dr. Ironside thought often of submitting a manuscript but could not seem to get started because of his other duties. Finally, in the last week of July, he began work on Except Ye Repent, and from then until he completed the book he wrote in longhand, on trains and at conferences, mailing the chapters as they were finished back to his secretary in Chicago, Miss E. L. Dowe, who typed the pages for him there. He completed the manuscript of some 54,000 words, on the closing day of the contest. His diary reads:
Finished my book on Except Ye Repent and had it in the mail at 5 P.M.
Mr. and Mrs. Sutherland took me to the station to register it. Will it win
the $1,000 prize? I hardly dare even to hope!
Was greatly pleased, but somewhat surprised to get a telegram today notifying me that I had won the $1,000 prize in the A. T. S. Book Contest.
The second book is A Historical Sketch of the Brethren Movement. Harry’s fellowship with the Brethren, as we know, was always a happy one. He realized that in bringing out this volume, which points not only to the merits of Brethrenism, which are many, but also to the sad divisions, he would offend some of them. He hesitated long before having the work published. Would it not be better to eliminate any criticisms? But would that be entirely honorable or fair? He concluded that a frank treatment of the whole movement, as he knew it, would in the end be the best thing, and he prayed that some of the leaders among the Brethren might be as exercised as he himself was, if they were not already, so that some good might come from the publication of the book.
The volume has been widely read and its author strongly criticized. Yet it is an honest expression of HAI’s conviction concerning the value and the failures of Brethrenism—that Brethrenism is the nearest approach to New Testament church order possible, lacking apostolic conditions and apostolic power, and is marred only by human weakness. The preparation of A Historical Sketch of the Brethren Movement was a labor of love on behalf of those men and women for whom he always had a sincere and respectful affection.
In June 1942 Bob Jones College (now Bob Jones University) conferred upon HAI his second honorary degree, Doctor of Divinity (D.D.). For a number of years Ironside was opposed to receiving what might appear to be praise from men. When in 1930 he accepted an honorary degree from Wheaton College, Illinois, he excused himself on the basis that this degree, Doctor of Letters (Litt. D.), was earned. The citation spoke of it as being in consideration of his contribution to evangelical literature. Now, however, he faced a quandary: should he accept an honor that he had at one time opposed for other people? His explanation of his affirmative decision was that he was grateful to his friend, Dr. Bob Jones,19 and did not want to offend him by rejecting the favor.
“Furthermore,” he said, “a lot of people thought I was a possessor of a D.D. degree and would advertise me thus. Now I am saved a great deal of explanation.”
The late saintly D. M. Stearns once told me, “I know of only one wholly consistent man who ever walked this earth. He was crucified at the age of thirty-three.”
17 For a complete list of titles by H. A. Ironside, see Appendix A.
18 For a complete list of organizations with which HAI was affiliated, see Appendix B.
19 Dr. Bob Jones, Senior, founder and first president of Bob Jones University.