75th Anniversary Historical Review


The Messenger Opened The Book

Magazine containing an editorial
by AB Simpson

“Quickening.” Swiftly, inerrantly, the messenger came, spurred on by the thought:

“I shall send a quickening to my people,” said God. “Without my Life, their lives are passive. Without my vision, their eyes are sightless. Quicken them.”

So the messenger of the dream came. But it was not long before he returned, bewildered, wondering.

“I find no man whim I can touch,” he said. “Some are filled, but not with Thee. Some are weary, but not for Thee. Many are satisfied – but not in Thee!”

And then the Spirit, all-knowing, all-wise, spoke.

“Look for a hungry heart, a yearning, searching, crying heart. Give him the quickening and the vision. He will know how to sanctify them to the glory of his God.”

The messenger of the dream opened the Book of remembrance and read:

Group of Missionary Student
circa 1884

Albert B. Simpson; born Prince Edward Island, December 15, 1843, offered on the alter of missions by a missionary saint, John Geddie; raised before an open Bible by faithful parents, Jane and James; brought to the dust at the foot of the cross during his fourteenth year; had the light of that cross break forth in all its truth within his soul several years later; given an urgency for his own education, and perseverance to obtain it; used fully the gift of intellect God granted him, by producing fine scholarship ordained to the ministry in 1861 and entrusted with his first pastorate, Knox Church, at Hamilton, Ontario; his next pastorate given at Chestnut Street Church in Louisville, Kentucky, where the first faint light of the vision began to glow in the city-wide evangelistic meetings; led again to the 13th Street Presbyterian Church in New York, in November, 1879, that his soul might know finally that fine buildings, a comfortable salary, and a conventional parish were not part of the growing, glimmering vision.

The messenger closed the Book, and nodded. He found the man, A. B. Simpson, on his knees, pleading for sinners, seeing millions for whom no man cared, the world’s millions cursed and beaten by their master, sin. The messenger had found a man upon whom the agony of the Son of God could be placed, a man who would not break under the burden, but would return it to the alter of heaven, where God Almighty, not by might, but by His Spirit would consume the burden.

Albert B. Simpson was not meritorious of the vision; he was chosen to fulfill it. This has been the special privilege of all those whose steps followed his then, in this dream. They were chosen, chosen by God, and ordained of God.

Thus the Vision Grew

South Boulevard before the
Missionary Training Institute

For such a vision the quickening had to be given. Finally, joyously, the messenger had found a hungry heart, so willing to grasp and believe and retain the precious truth of the privilege of a body united to God, that it possessed release not only from the power of sin, but release from the effects of disease and sickness.

Daily, the Spirit hovered. And daily in the streets of New York, in the services held in the evenings, from street-corners and individual homes, men and women came forth to the light of the Gospel, quickening from the old life of death and evil.

Hungry minds searched the Word, and declared what they saw and heard and interceded for those they met. Weary minds were brought to rest in His peace. Sick bodies became vibrant once more with life flowing from the Giver of Life. The Lord Jesus Christ became their only message. The Lord of Calvary, Savior; the Lord of Glory, Sanctifier; the Lord of Might, Healer; the Lord of Sabbath, coming again. Watching as hundreds heard this message and as hundreds were transformed by its power, the messenger worshipped, giving glory and honor to the Creator. The Father was being glorified in the Son. Many from among these were to share His glory. For having seen Jesus’ compassion and yearning for “lost sheep” came upon them, and they too were chosen.

Thus the vision grew. Dr. Simpson recognizing, perhaps prophetically, the need for a missionary training school, had written of this in May, 1880, in an editorial in The Gospel in All Lands. Men and women were ready to go with the message of salvation, but they must be trained. Dr. Simpson believed firmly that the ministers of God must have not only spiritual depth and discernment, but practical training and wisdom.

Out of his own vision and through the willingness of the new converts to learn, Bible classes were organized and held. The location was first the stage of a theatre, the 23rd St. Theatre at Eighth Ave., in New York City. Surroundings were humble, pupils were small in number, books were meager. But the Spirit of the Lord was present, and He sanctified all to His service.

Little by little the effort grew. In 1883, formal organization gave the school the name Missionary Training College for Home and Foreign Missionaries and Evangelists. October first of that same year the school now located at 448 Eight Avenue, began its academic year with more than forty students. Their zeal was rewarded, and their dedication tested. Among the graduates of a small class in 1884, five sailed as pioneer missionaries to Africa.

Africa, Congo – the port of Cabinda, and the date was February 4, 1885. The Messrs, Condit, Gerrish, Quagle, Jensen, and one more brother, landed, and advised not to begin work at this port, pushed on into the interior. Privation, unsuspected odds, laboring in the face of the whims and vagaries of native chieftains,--this was dedication tried. John Condit’s grave was the first of a long number to lie under the stark, pitiless African sun, but it did not lie alone for long. Faith does not see defeat, and others followed.

Palestine, Jerusalem – and still intrepid students went forth. Miss Lucy Dunn sailed in February of 1890, to labor alone for a year in Hebron. She was followed by Mr. and Mrs. Cruikshank and Mr. and Mrs. Murray. Other students, Miss Elizabeth Brown, and the Misses Parson, Giles, and Harris followed to bolster the work.

India, Bombay – the Gujerati and Marathi fields, and again vision and zeal saw the growth of a church which by 1900 numbered close to 1,000 souls, a number of chapels and fourteen stations.

Lives Given Ungrudgingly

China—West China and Tibet. Lives were given ungrudgingly. Minds and hearts wearied as they faced the barrier of customs and language. Spirits so undaunted that Mrs. Henry Cassidy, mother of small children, whose husband died after contracting smallpox from his labors of preaching to the Chinese in steerage, requested that she be sent to China, and taking the little ones with her, taught school until she herself acquired the fluency for witnessing. Swiftly following her, the Misses Annie Moore, and Ella Funk, and Miss Stowel sailed from San Francisco October 30, 1889.

And there was South America, the “neglected continent,” to whose indifferent millions students had pledged themselves. And Japan, and the Islands of the sea – still from the halls of the missionary college came forth men and women chosen to deliver His message.

Typical dorm room in 1904

By 1890, the school had settled at 690 Eighth Ave. in a building specifically constructed for its work, and in 1892 correspondence courses were being offered. Again, the name was changed, this time to The New York Training Institute. But God had granted a vision which extended from New York City into all the world, and growth demanded expansion.

Although New York City provided unlimited opportunities for the exercise of Christian service which was so vital in the training of Institute students, there were many distractions to intensive study and a wholesome Christian environment. Further reasons for the move were stated in an early spring issue of The Christian and Missionary Alliance Weekly, March 3, 1897. Dr. Simpson wrote, “Another object is to secure commodious buildings for our large and increasing training institutes for which the room now available is entirely inadequate. To secure the accommodations needed at present in New York City for our students would cost at least a quarter of a million dollars. We can secure the same accommodations in the country for one sixth of that sum and at the same time have a more secluded and suitable place in every way for our work with ample grounds for the relaxation of the students.”

Thus it was that in the fall of 1896, Dr. Simpson was led to purchase twenty-eight acres of land in South Nyack, N.Y., with a view that this would become a permanent home for a Christian college community. This beautifully situated area is to be found on South mountain, looking toward Hook Mountain to the north, and overlooking the expanse of the Hudson river to the east and south. The property was purchased in two sections: sixteen acres from the Rev. Ross Taylor of Nyack, and twelve acres from Charles H. Woerz of the brewing firm of Beadleston and Woerz. Mr. Taylor’s agreement, states the New York Evening Journal, September 28, 1896, included also his newly-built handsome stone house, “one of the most substantial best constructed … and attractive places in this region,” the contract being drawn up for the sum of $25,000. This stone house (known by thousands as Berachah Hall) was to be complemented by a college building, an orphanage, and a large auditorium, or tabernacle, to accommodate the famous missionary conventions, one of which was held that very August to commemorate the union of the two societies, The Christian Alliance and The International Missionary Alliance. It was planned also that cottages would be built upon the hillside to be occupied by those who belonged to and were working with the Alliance.

The Institute Lady Hoopsters
in 1911

The Alliance leaders desired that this enterprise should to be excessively costly. Funds came in from many sources, some sacrificial, some substantial. On Monday October 19, 1896, the Nyack Evening Journal noted that, “Through his phenomenal ability to move persons by the power of his eloquence to contribute to his treasury, Dr. Simpson raised $226,000 at two meetings which he recently addressed. One of these was at Old Orchard, last August, where his auditors gave their watches, jewelry and pianos to swell the fund, and $102,324 was realized.

At Carnegie Hall, on Sunday Oct 11, Dr. Simpson broke his record by securing $125,000. There was no doubt, therefore, that the reverend Doctor will successfully carry out his plans to create this great religious resort on the banks of the Hudson.”

With all things in readiness, it was planned to start work on the erection of the college building as soon as weather permitted. On March 22, 1897, the Nyack Evening Journal wrote, “The Alliance people are to be congratulated upon securing such a handsome location for the carrying on of their praiseworthy work, and the people of this town certainly are to be congratulated upon the bright outlook now presented.”

Mr. Leeming, the architect, had full plans drawn up and waiting. Upon the advice of Charles McElroy as carpenter and builder, the ground for the new building was broken on Tuesday, April 6, 1897. Blauvelt and Garrison, local artisans, were contracted for the masonry. As the work progressed, it was decided that Saturday, April 17, 1897 should be set aside for the laying of the cornerstone. Dr. Simpson made plans to charter two special eight-coach trains on the Northern Railroad carrying approximately 300 persons each, and with those coming on regular trains, the number of visitors was expected to total nearly one thousand.

Continue to Part Two