Dr. Ironside’s Bible
Notes and Quotes from the Margins
A Coveted Treasure
In his biography of the late Dr. H. A. Ironside, Dr. E. Schuyler English mentions that Richard Bentley’s description of Bishop Pearson can well be applied to Dr. Ironside: “The very dust of whose writings is gold.”
It was my good fortune to come into possession of the Bible Dr. Ironside used for many years. Going over the voluminous notes it contains, one realizes that these comments and themes are indeed the very “dust of gold.”
Without doubt the personal Bible of Dr. H. A. Ironside is a treasure. The flyleaf of the good-sized copy of the Authorized Version bears the record “Presented by Saints at Boston (Arlington Heights) Mass., Oct. 14, 1925.” (This was Dr. Ironside’s forty-ninth birthday.)
It is a day well remembered when this Bible, the most cherished possession of my library, became mine. The famous expositor was coming to the close of an eighteen-and-one-half-year ministry as Pastor of the Moody Memorial Church (which, by the way, is the record for a pastoral stay at this renowned church). Dr. Ironside had read thousands of books in his lifetime, and even though he had supplied schools and struggling preachers with hundreds of books, there were still some four thousand volumes to be taken from the shelves of his study and packed for shipment to Winona Lake, etc. It was my personal delight, as his assistant pastor, to spend several days helping him in this task.
One day, upon removing books from one of the lesser used compartments, my hands produced a fine old dust-covered Bible which was literally in pieces from extensive use. The cover bore the gold imprint “H. A. Ironside, Oakland, Calif.” Immediately I asked the Pastor about the inscription.
“Yes,” he replied, “that is the Bible I was preaching from when I received the call to be Pastor of the Moody Church. And I have used it for a good part of that ministry too.”
Considering the fact that Dr. Ironside had been like a father to me, and was my hero as an expositor, I dared to mention that I should treasure such a possession for my very own.
“What would you do with it?” he asked. My answer was that I would treasure it as a memento of our association in the Word as father and son. Thus he gave it to me. Needless to say, I have cherished this keepsake, and have had the bookbinders restore the binding. It is now in safe condition to handle for study. My desire concerning this book is that I might share with others some of the treasure found therein.
The famous English poet, Matthew Arnold, declared, “Poetry is simply the most beautiful, impressive and widely effective mode of saying things, and hence its importance.”
Many of us have experienced near nervous exhaustion, as some dear brother attempted the use of poetry from the pulpit. But ah, when H.A.I. would pause during a Bible exposition and quote a few lines which sweetly but surely cut to the heart, it was almost as if the Master Himself were speaking.
H.A.I, had such a love for message in meter that he wrote many hymns of praise himself. Who, in evangelical circles, has not heard the song “Overshadowed”? Let us look at one stanza and the chorus:
How desolate my life would be,
How dark and drear my nights and days,
If Jesus’ face I did not see
To brighten all earth’s weary ways.
Chorus: I’m overshadowed by His mighty love,
Love eternal, changeless pure,
Overshadowed by His mighty love,
Rest is mine, serene, secure;
He died to ransom me from sin,
He lives to keep me day by day,
I’m overshadowed by His mighty love,
Love that brightens all my way.
H.A.I.’s Bible contains many poems, both penned and pasted in the flyleaves and margins. Reading a few of them will not begin to compare with hearing them quoted from his own lips, which are now silent awaiting “the blessed hope”—yet even in printed form his choice speaks the measure of the man himself!
My former association with Dr. Ironside was a most blessed experience. The call to be assistant pastor of the Moody Memorial Church was accepted in June 1947, which began for me a “Timothy” experience, the marks of which can never be erased from my life. For instance, sitting behind him as he preached verse by verse was like a seminary training in itself. Traveling with him to speaking engagements was always refreshing. My mind was alert trying to think up some theological question that might stump the “Old Apostle”; but his quick reply in Scripture quoting would leave me breathless. What a privilege to sit at the feet of such a Gamaliel! Many were the meals we ate together—that is, we started together but never finished together. He would be through a complete meal before I had started the second course, and would tell me at least three good stories before my dessert was finished.
What a giant of intellect and spirituality Dr. Ironside was! He would be found in his study most any morning at seven-thirty. His day included study of the Word; writing letters (in long hand) to missionaries, penning articles for publication, manuscripts for books, radio engagements, preaching and teaching engagements, personal interviews, and a short nap after the noon meal. The more I think about his capacity the more impossible his tasks seem to me. Yet I witnessed these things with my own eyes.
Many a professor of homiletics has been plagued with the perennial question that comes from new aspiring preachers, “What about H. A. Ironside, he doesn’t use this system?” It is quite true that H.A.I, seemed to have homiletical rules that differed from those of Spurgeon and Talmadge; but did he or did he not get results? One day while driving my beloved Pastor to a preaching engagement, I broached the subject of homiletics. In our conversation I mentioned the names of professors who were looked upon as top bracket teachers in the field of homiletics, and waited for comment if forthcoming. It came. With a twinkle in his eye he said, “You know, it’s a strange thing, but many of these men who can tell you how, were never able to do the job themselves.”
Upon studying H.A.I.’s Bible one is brought face to face with the fact that he had a very concise way of explaining truth, as for example the few samples of his outlines and themes included in “Suggestive Themes from H.A.I.’s Bible.”
A few moments of browsing through his Bible will quickly reveal H.A.I.’s devotional love for the Book, also his method of expounding it. He was probably the most famous exponent of verse-by-verse exposition of our generation. And literally thousands of sheep crowded the great Moody Church week after week for over eighteen years, because better pasture could not be found anywhere else.
H.A.I.’s manner of marking the Bible is a fascinating study in itself. In fact, all flyleaves are actually covered with sayings, poems, diagrams, illustrations, epitaphs, and even Chinese characters, which he studied for recreation. Here and there, he has noted some of the great themes of the Bible, which signified the power and effectiveness of his preaching. But perhaps the richest of the treasure is the reading of his choice comments scattered over some fifteen hundred pages of Scripture, as written by him in the margins.
This volume contains selections from the many marginal notes found in each of the Books of the great expositor’s old Bible. If the reader will fit these notes with chapter and verse, he will find the map leading to buried treasure.
Herbert J. Pugmire, D.D., F.R.G.S.
Galilean Baptist Church
At What a Cost
Chosen, redeemed, in the children’s place,
Holy and blameless before His face,
Once guilty, ruined, and lost;
Not e’en doth the light of His presence show
A single stain—washed whiter than snow;
But, ah! at what a cost!
Not glittering gems, nor silver and gold,
Not worlds though teeming with wealth untold,
Could for our ransom suffice.
No, the Church of God was bought with the blood
Of the holy, spotless Lamb of God;
This, this was the costly price.
Oh wondrous truth! Deep in each breast
By the Spirit of God be it impressed,
And there by His power abide,
Grant, oh our God, that our life below
May brightly reflect the truths we know,
That Thou mayest be glorified.
“Often I am tempted to flee my task
But that Strange Man upon the Cross
Bars my way and holds me back.”
“Bold infidelity; turn pale and die.
Beneath this stone four sleeping infants lie;
Say, are they lost or saved?
If death’s by sin they sinned for they are here,
If Heaven’s by works in Heaven they can’t appear,
Reason, ah, how depraved!
Turn to the Bible’s sacred page, the knot’s untied.
They died, for Adam sinned;
They live, for Jesus died.”
Epitaph on a tombstone over four children, in
St. Andrews Church Yard, Scotland
I hear a Voice you cannot hear,
Which says I must not stay.
I see a Hand you cannot see,
Which beckons me away.
I sometimes feel the thread of life is slender
And soon with me the labor will be wrought,
Then grows my heart to other hearts more tender,
The time is short.
- M. Clark
The Hands of Christ
“The hands of Christ seem very frail
For they were broken by a nail;
But only they reach heaven at last
Whom those frail broken Hands hold fast.”
- R. Moreland
The following is pasted in the margin of H.A.I.’s Bible beside Romans 6:16—“Obedience”
Make me a captive, Lord,
And then I shall be free;
Force me to render up my sword,
And I shall conqueror be.
I sink in life’s alarms
When by myself I stand;
Imprison me within thine arms,
And strong shall be my hand.
My will is not my own
Till thou hast made it thine;
If it would reach the monarch’s throne
It must its crown resign:
It only stands unbent
Amid the clashing strife
When on Thy bosom it has leant,
And found in Thee its life.
“Whoso hath felt the Spirit of the Highest
Cannot confound, nor doubt Him nor deny.
Yea, with one voice, oh world thou thou deniest
Stand thou on that side, for on THIS am I.”
Workmen of God! oh, lose not heart,
But learn what God is like;
And in the darkest battlefield
Thou shalt know where to strike.
Thrice blest is he to whom is given
The instinct that can tell
That God is in the field when He
Is most invisible.
Blest too is he who can divine
Where real right doth lie,
And dares to take the side that seems
Wrong to man’s blindfold eye.
Then learn to scorn the praise of men,
And learn to lose with God;
For Jesus won the world through shame,
And beckons thee His road.
As He can endless glory weave,
From what men reckon shame,
In His own world He is content
To play a losing game.
“Marvel not that Christ in glory
All my inmost heart hath won,
Not a Star to cheer my darkness
But a light beyond the sun.
I have seen the face of Jesus
Tell me not of ought beside,
I have heard the voice of Jesus
All my soul is satisfied.
In the radiance of the glory,
First I saw His blessed face,
And forever shall that glory
Be my home, my dwelling place.”
“Ah! little I’ll reck, when the journey is o’er,
Of the burdens and griefs I so dreaded, and bore—
They’ll all be forgot as I enter the door.
With that light on my face, and that song in my ears
How small my regard for past troubles and fears,
While my harp makes the music I’ve longed for for years.”
“When I am dying how glad I shall be
That the lamp of my life has been blazed out for Thee
I shall not regret one thing that I gave,
Money or time one sinner to save.
I shall not mind that the way has been rough;
That Thy blest feet led the way for me is enough;
When I am dying how glad I shall be
That the lamp of my life has been blazed out for Thee.”
They’re Dear to God
Oh that, when Christians meet and part,
These words were graved on ev’ry heart—
“They’re dear to God!”
However wilful and unwise,
We’ll look on them with loving eyes—
“They’re dear to God!”
Oh, wonder!—to the Eternal One
Dear as His own beloved Son;
Dearer to Jesus than His blood,
Dear as the Spirit’s fixed abode—
“They’re dear to God!”
When tempted to give pain for pain,
How would this thought our words restrain,
“They’re dear to God!”
When truth compels us to contend,
What love with all our strife should blend!
“They’re dear to God.”
When they would shun the pilgrim’s lot
For this vain world, forget them not,
But win them back with love and prayer;
They never can be happy there,
If dear to God.
Shall we be there so near, so dear,
And be estranged and cold whilst here—
All dear to God?
By the same cares and toils opprest,
We lean upon one faithful Breast,
We hasten to the same repose;
How bear or do enough for those
So dear to God!
“I pass within the glory even now
Where shapes and words are not
For joy that passeth words, O Lord art Thou,
And bliss that passeth thought.”
Quotations From The Flyleaves
“Remember the devil can wall you round, but he cannot roof you in.”
—Hudson Taylor to Dan Crawford.
“If you must speak your mind, then mind how you speak.”
“God is a substitute for everything, but nothing is a substitute for God.”
“The gospel of Christ once heard is always the gospel which has been heard. Nothing can ever alter that.”
“Deus Meus mea omnia.” Motto of Francis d’Assisi
“When I was rich, I had God in everything; now I am poor and I have everything in God.”
—Testimony of a ruined business man.
“I will place no value on anything I have or may possess except in relation to the kingdom of Christ.”
God has wonderful things to display if He could only get the show cases.
“Young man, attend to the voice of one who has possessed a certain degree of fame in the world, and who will shortly appear before his Maker: Read the Bible every day of your life.”
—Samuel Johnson, when dying,
to a young gentleman who visited him.
“I am in the place where it is demanded of conscience and of God that I shall speak the truth; and speak it I will: impugn it whoso lists.”
—John Knox in the pulpit of St. Giles.
- Prayer for knowledge. Eph. 1:17.
- Prayer for power. Eph. 3:14.
- Prayer of seven petitions. Col. 1:9-11.
- Prayer for keen perception and fruits of righteousness in the believer. Phil. 1:9-11.
That Blessed Hope—Titus 2:13.
A happy hope because—
- Christ Himself is to return.
- The first Resurrection and the living changed.
- The redemption of the body.
- The believer to be rewarded.
- The earth to be blessed.
The Women of the Apocalypse
- Four of them—representing corporate bodies of people. Jezebel—The papal system.
- Woman clothed with the sun—Israel invested with fullness of governmental authority.
- Babylon—the great harlot—The future corrupt church after the Lord’s return for His own.
- Bride of the Lamb—The Church glorified in heaven.
Salvation from first to last. Titus 3:7
Reformation not salvation. Judges 17, 18
The revelation of the rapture. 1 Thess.4.
10 questions on a chapter.
- Principle subject?
- Leading lessons?
- Best verse?
- Principle persons?
- Teaching about Christ?
- Example to follow?
- Error to avoid?
- Command to obey?
- Promise to claim?
- Prayer to be echoed?