A B Simpson was a Canadian-American pastor, theologian, author, and founder of the Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA). He was born on December 15, 1843 in Bayview, Ontario, Canada to James and Mary Simpson. Simpson studied at Knox College in Toronto and was ordained as a Presbyterian minister in 1865.
In 1873, after pastoring churches in Hamilton and then New York City, Simpson had a spiritual crisis that led him to question traditional Christianity. He began preaching about having a personal relationship with Christ through the Holy Spirit, which was controversial at the time. This led him to start the Gospel Tabernacle church, which grew rapidly.
In 1887, Simpson founded the Christian Alliance to help churches unite for world evangelization. This later became the Christian and Missionary Alliance in 1897, which combined evangelism and social work at home and abroad. The C&MA ordained women at a time when few other denominations did. Simpson served as president until his death on October 29, 1919.
What was A B Simpson known for?
A.B. Simpson was known for several key things:
- Promoting deeper Christian living. Simpson emphasized having a personal relationship with Christ through the Holy Spirit, known as the Higher Christian Life. This grew out of his own spiritual crisis.
- Founding the Christian and Missionary Alliance. The C&MA combined evangelism and social work at home and abroad. It promoted unity among churches for world evangelization.
- Ordaining women. The C&MA ordained women at a time when most denominations did not. Simpson believed in recognizing women’s spiritual gifts.
- Writing prolifically. Simpson wrote over 70 books on theology, preaching, missions, divine healing, and Christian living. His hymns and poems were also widely published.
- Starting gospel tabernacles. Simpson founded Gospel Tabernacles in New York City and elsewhere to minister to the urban poor. They combined social work with evangelism.
- Promoting divine healing. Simpson taught that God could supernaturally heal sickness. Healings were reported at his meetings and the C&MA established healing homes.
Overall, Simpson helped promote a relational faith, unity among churches, and new openness to women in ministry in the late 19th century.
A B Simpson’s Early Life and Education
A.B. Simpson was born on December 15, 1843 in Bayview, Ontario, Canada. His parents were James and Mary Simpson who were devout Presbyterian Christians. As a child, Simpson was studious and showed a love for learning.
In 1860 at age 16, Simpson enrolled at Knox College in Toronto, a Presbyterian seminary. He graduated in 1865 and was ordained as a Presbyterian minister that same year.
During his time at Knox College, Simpson was mentored by Rev. William McClure. Simpson was seen as an excellent student with outstanding preaching abilities for someone his age.
A B Simpson’s Ministry and Ministry Crises
After graduating from Knox College in 1865, A.B. Simpson was called to pastor Knox Presbyterian Church in nearby Hamilton, Ontario. He served there from 1865-1868.
In 1868, at age 25, Simpson accepted a call to a prestigious church in Louisville, Kentucky. However on his way there, he felt God calling him instead to the Thirteenth Street Presbyterian Church in New York City.
Simpson pastored the Thirteenth Street Church from 1869-1874. During this time, he began to question traditional Christianity and organized religion. In 1873, he suffered a spiritual crisis and depression. He wondered if his faith was just inherited from his parents and lacked personal meaning.
This crisis led Simpson to begin emphasizing the need for a personal relationship with Christ through the Holy Spirit. In 1874, he left the Thirteenth Street Church to found the Gospel Tabernacle, an independent church focused on deeper Christian living. This marked a turning point in his ministry.
What did A B Simpson believe?
A.B. Simpson developed several key theological beliefs, often related to his emphasis on a deeper spiritual life:
- The Fourfold Gospel. Simpson outlined four key aspects of the gospel message: Christ as Savior, Sanctifier, Healer, and Coming King. This encapsulated his teachings.
- The Higher Christian Life. Simpson wrote extensively about going beyond just justification by faith to living in intimacy with Christ and being filled with the Holy Spirit.
- Divine Healing. Simpson believed healing came through Christ’s atonement. He taught that God heals sickness and performs miracles today through faith.
- Premillennialism. Simpson believed in the imminent physical second coming of Christ followed by a golden age millennial kingdom on earth.
- Missions and evangelism. Simpson emphasized the need to evangelize both locally and globally. He also promoted unity among churches to fulfill the Great Commission.
- Women in ministry. Simpson ordained women and commissioned female missionaries in an era when few Protestant denominations did so.
Overall, Simpson aimed to restore a vibrant, Spirit-filled faith true to what he saw in the New Testament. He reacted against tendencies toward dead orthodoxy in Christianity.
The Fourfold Gospel
The core of Simpson’s theology was his emphasis on what he called the “Fourfold Gospel:”
- Christ as Savior – Forgiveness of sins through grace by faith
- Christ as Sanctifier – The filling and indwelling of the Holy Spirit for empowerment
- Christ as Healer – Divine healing and miracles for the physical body
- Christ as Coming King – The imminent return of Jesus Christ in power and glory
This outlined Simpson’s central teachings on salvation, spiritual life, divine healing, and eschatology in a simple way. The Fourfold Gospel integrated the individual dimensions into a whole.
The Higher Christian Life
Simpson was a key figure in the Higher Life movement that emphasized going beyond justification by faith alone to living in intimacy with Christ and being filled with the Holy Spirit.
Simpson believed sanctification was more than just growing in holiness – it meant enjoying moment-by-moment communion with God. This Higher Christian Life was available to all believers as they trusted and abided in Christ.
Simpson wrote extensively on how to enter the Higher Christian Life through consecration, faith, and openness to the Holy Spirit’s fullness. He believed this was the key to living a victorious Christian life on a daily basis.
Divine healing was another major emphasis for Simpson. He taught that physical healing was provided for in Christ’s atonement. Therefore, God desires to heal sickness and perform miracles today in response to believing prayer.
Simpson cited healing stories in the Gospels and Acts as evidence that faith in Christ could produce miraculous healings. He taught believers should lay hands on the sick and expect recovery as proof of God’s love and power.
Though sometimes controversial, Simpson’s healing homes and reports of miracles lent credibility to his teaching on divine healing. This message reached many who were disillusioned with medicine’s limits.
How did the Christian and Missionary Alliance begin?
In 1881, A.B. Simpson left the Gospel Tabernacle church he had founded in New York City to focus full-time on evangelistic ministry. He began an organization called the Christian Alliance that held conferences and revivals across the United States and Canada.
The Christian Alliance focused on promoting four main principles:
- Salvation through faith in Christ
- Entire sanctification through the Holy Spirit
- Healing through Christ’s atonement
- The second coming of Christ
In 1887, the Christian Alliance sponsored the Niagara Bible Conference which launched a greater vision for cooperation in worldwide evangelism. This momentum led to the creation of the Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA) in 1897.
The new C&MA combined domestic ministries like gospel tabernacles with foreign missions efforts under one organization. There was also an emphasis on unity among different churches and denominations for the sake of evangelism.
By 1900, the C&MA had ordained ministers, commissioned overseas missionaries, established the Missionary Training Institute, and opened the first divine healing home in Nyack, New York under Simpson’s leadership.
In the 1880s, Simpson founded urban “gospel tabernacles” in New York City and other large cities to minister to the poor and marginalized.
These tabernacles held evangelistic meetings, provided food and aid, housed activities for children and teens, and offered training for ministry and missions work. They aimed to combine social work with spreading the gospel.
The urban gospel tabernacles laid the foundation for the C&MA’s compassion ministries arm which serves needy communities to this day.
Niagara Bible Conference
In 1887, A.B. Simpson and the Christian Alliance convened the historic Niagara Bible Conference which marked a turning point for the movement.
At this conference, Simpson cast a bold vision for uniting evangelical churches together to complete the Great Commission and spread the gospel globally.