He was teaching Sunday school at age eleven. He was known in L.A. as the boy preacher by age sixteen. Before age twenty he had a nervous breakdown. At age 53 he was pastoring one of the leading fundamental churches of his day? All of this was possible because of God’s amazing…
Grace allowed Harry Allen Ironside to be born into a home the loved Jesus. Even as a busy banker, his dad would attend meetings and do some street preaching on occasions. Harry remembers his parents having him memorize Scripture at age three. Tragically, Harry’s dad died of Typhoid at the age of twenty-seven.
Grace lead his family to Los Angeles. Harry was shocked to find there was no Sunday school for the kids in his neighborhood to attend. So Harry decided to start his own. At age 11 he was averaging sixty kids in attendance along with a few adults! It was also in L.A. that H.A. developed a desire for preaching. It was during the meetings of Dwight L. Moody that God confirmed this in his heart. Packed to the door, Harry pushed his way into the balcony to hear the famous preacher. Noticing that the roof was supported by girders made of large 4×12-inch planks spiked together like a trough, young Ironside climbed up them so he could look down on the platform.
All of this and he was still not a believer. He says, “I was not without considerable anxiety as to my soul; and though I longed to break into the world, and was indeed guilty of much that was vile and wicked, I ever felt a restraining hand upon me, keeping me from many things that I would otherwise have gone into; and a certain religiousness became, I suppose, characteristic. But religion is not salvation.”
Grace allowed a young Scottish evangelist to become good friends with the Ironside family. During one visit he asked Harry specifically about his salvation. Harry knew he wasn’t a Christian. Six months after that exchange Harry said he fell on his knees and cried, “Lord, save me.” He later said, “I rested on the Word of God and confessed Christ as my Savior.” He was thirteen.
Grace allowed Harry to begin preaching and working with the Salvation Army. Their spirit and activity attracted him, and he began to take part in their meetings, testifying and singing. He soon became known as “The Boy Preacher of Los Angeles.”
Harry was bringing in crowds and proclaiming a life of sinless perfection while he was far from it. He could not understand how to eradicate the sin in his life. This inward struggle was more than he could handle. He said, “The language of my troubled soul, after all those years of preaching to others, was, ‘Oh that I knew where I might find Him!’ Finding Him not, I saw only the blackness of despair before me; but yet I knew too well His love and care to be completely cast down.”
Grace led him, with the advice of others in the Salvation Army, to check himself into a “House of Rest.” He was at the lowest point he had ever been. On the verge of a nervous breakdown, he decided he would fill his mind with anything and everything but the Scriptures.
Grace brought a woman to his side who was experiencing the same struggles and seeking answers in the Scriptures. Together they began to search for answers. Little by little, he related, the light began to dawn: they saw they had everything in Christ, not in experience.
Grace brought Harry out of traditional organized religion. He became an itinerate preacher with the Plymouth Brethren. After he was married the young couple began to travel and preach anywhere they could find an audience. Many days the money was not there. He tells a story about sitting in a dreary Salt Lake City rooming house one night without even a penny to their name. They prayed; the young husband put God on the spot, saying they needed 40 cents for food the next day. Then, somewhat discouraged, he went out to preach on a street corner. After his message two men followed him and spoke to him. As they left they shook hands with him. In his palm when he opened it was three dimes and two nickels!
As the years rolled by, grace allowed the preaching ability of this unassuming expositor to become known. Opportunities increased in size and number until soon he was traveling continually from coast to coast conducting Bible conferences and evangelistic campaigns in churches, halls, stores, and whatever was offered.
In 1926, grace led the elders of Moody Church to call this 53-year-old Brethren evangelist, who had never before held a pastorate, to be their pastor. Ironically, this was the ministry founded by the man who inspired him to preach! After ten months of prayer, Harry Allen Ironside stepped into the largest fundamental pulpit in the U.S. Year after year he filled the 4,400 seat auditorium, with only two Sundays without at least one public profession of Christ.
May we never doubt our good God is working in our lives continually by His grace.