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Who was H. A. Ironside?

H. A. Ironside

Henry (Harry) Allen Ironside (1876—1951), better known as H. A. Ironside, was a Canadian-American Bible expositor, pastor, theologian, and author. During his first and only tenure as a pastor, serving at the Moody Memorial Church in Chicago from 1930 to 1948, his distinction as a fundamentalist preacher spread far and wide. He wrote more than fifty verse-by-verse commentaries on books of the Bible, and they are still in use today. To many, he is remembered as the “Archbishop of Fundamentalism.”

H. A. Ironside was born in Toronto, Canada, to Scottish immigrant parents John and Sophia Ironside. They were both active in the Plymouth Brethren movement. His father died of typhoid fever when Harry was not quite two years old, but he left behind a strong legacy as a soul-winning lay minister. The elder Ironside was given the nickname “The Eternity Man” because he asked everyone he met, “Do you know where you will spend eternity?” (, accessed 12/18/23). These impressions of his father were imprinted on young Harry’s mind. By age four, he began to memorize verses and read the handwritten notes in his father’s Bible. His widowed mother’s devotion to Christ, especially in prayer, also profoundly influenced Harry.

Harry’s thoughts were continually drawn to the matter of his salvation. When he was ten years old, the family moved to Los Angeles, California, and within two years he established a Sunday school, teaching neighborhood children about the Bible he had already read through ten times. Nevertheless, Harry was still unconvinced of his salvation. It wasn’t until he turned 14 that his heart and mind were fully persuaded, and Harry entrusted his life to Jesus Christ as Savior.

Not long after, Ironside joined the Salvation Army, serving in various evangelistic posts throughout California, eventually achieving the rank of captain. But he resisted the Salvation Army’s Wesleyan doctrines of sanctification and holiness. After about five years, Harry resigned from the work.

In 1896, he returned to his Plymouth Brethren roots, although he ministered independently, preaching, teaching, and traveling extensively. Harry married Helen Schofield, a former Salvation Army officer, in 1898. The couple settled in Oakland, California, in 1900. They had two sons: Edmund Henry (b. 1899) and John Schofield (b. 1905).

Ironside’s preaching style was spontaneous and energetic, and his intimacy with the Scriptures was remarkable. His clear interpretations and effectual illustrations helped his audience grasp complex theological concepts. In the fundamentalist pulpits of his time, Ironside’s voice grew increasingly in demand as the leading authority on Scripture. As was typical among the Brethren, his doctrine was decidedly dispensational.

Although Harry had discontinued his formal education after the eighth grade, his organic curiosity, passion for reading, sharp memory, and never-ending study of history, literature, philosophy, theology, and the Scriptures drove him to academic heights. He was awarded honorary doctorates from Wheaton College and Bob Jones University. Soon, Ironside’s reputation as a conservative Bible expositor, evangelist, and author spread nationally. He kept a lively pace, preaching in churches, missions, tents, schools, and Bible conferences nearly 7,000 times to more than 1.25 million people between 1916 and 1929. He also spent much time ministering to Native Americans in the Southwestern United States.

Early in 1930, H. A. Ironside was invited to assume the pastorate of the Moody Memorial Church in Chicago. He was initially reluctant because of his lack of pastoral experience, but he eventually accepted the position with fear and trembling. Ironside preached his first sermon as pastor of Moody Church in March of 1930. For the next eighteen years, he led the inner-city, multi-denominational congregation, preaching to multitudes.

During these years at Moody, Ironside’s ministry extended abroad to England, Scotland, and Ireland. He also served on the following boards: Africa Inland Mission, Bob Jones University, Dallas Theological Seminary, Moody Bible Institute, Wheaton College, and Winona Lake Bible Conference.

Ironside’s wife, Helen, died shortly after their fiftieth wedding anniversary in 1948. Within a month, Harry retired as pastor of Moody Church. Although his eyesight was diminishing from cataracts, he refused to slow down. The following year, he married Annie Turner Hightower and, with her assistance, continued his demanding ministry schedule.

Active until the end, H. A. Ironside died during a preaching tour in New Zealand on January 15, 1951. He was 74 years old.

Here is a small sampling of H. A. Ironside’s words:

“We would worry less if we praised more. Thanksgiving is the enemy of discontent and dissatisfaction” (The Continual Burnt Offering: Daily Meditations on the Word of God).

“While faith is in exercise, all is bright. When self is looked to, all becomes dark” (Notes on the Prophecy and Lamentations of Jeremiah).

“Faith rests on the naked Word of God; that Word believed gives full assurance” (Full Assurance: How to Know You’re Saved).

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This page last updated: March 20, 2024