Harry Ironside's Testimony

(As Told by Ed Reese)

Henry's birth was almost a casualty. The child was thought to be dead, so attention was given to the dangerously ill mother. Forty minutes later a nurse detected a pulse beat and at the doctor's order put the baby in a hot bath which soon produced a demonstration of his vocal chords.

Following the death of the father, the 26-year old widow, who also had a new baby along with two-year old Henry, began to sew trying to hold the family together.

Harry had religion but not Christ. He was memorizing Scripture from three years of age and up, starting with Luke 19:10. Ironside read the Bible through 14 times by his 14th year. Two frequent visitors were Scotch evangelists, Donald Munro and John Smith. They would always ask Harry "are you born again?" He always replied that he passed out tracts, memorized Scripture, went to Sunday School. He was quite relieved when he heard his mother make plans to go to Los Angeles in 1886 when he was ten years old. At least they would not be bugging him anymore, he mused.

A train ride from Toronto to Los Angeles was an adventure for an adult, let alone a child of ten. They arrived on December 12, 1886. Harry was surprised to find out there was no Sunday School in his neighborhood, so at age 11 he started one. He called together boys and girls and talked to them about his purpose. He sent out the boys to collect sacks and burlap bags and he organized the girls into a sewing club. They sewed the burlap together and soon a burlap tent was made that could accommodate 100 people. There was no teacher, so Harry taught, and the average attendance was 60 including a few adults. Harry would always revert to Isaiah 53 when he couldn't think of anything else to say. People would say, "God bless this little preacher" and Harry assumed himself saved.

In 1888 D. L. Moody came to Los Angeles for a campaign. Meetings were held in Hazzard's Pavilion which seated 8,000. Finding no seat he climbed up on a trough-like girder that extended from the second gallery up to the apex of the roof. Moody excited Harry and he prayed, "Lord, help me some day to preach to crowds like these, and to lead souls to Christ." Forty-two years later he became pastor of the church Moody founded. In 1889 his mother said happily one day after school, "Guess who's here?" Harry thought it to be some lost relative, but it was evangelist Donald Munro. As he arrived it was, "Well, well, Harry lad, how you have grown! And are you born again yet, my boy?" His Uncle Allan, who was in the room said, "Oh, Harry preaches himself, now." Undaunted Munro said, "You are preaching, and yet you don't know that you're born again! Go and get your Bible, lad."

Young Ironside was really challenged. Within a few weeks Harry gave up his Sunday School, for he felt he had no right to open his mouth for God if he were unsaved. For six months he battled this problem. Then in February, 1890, he went to a party, and Proverbs 1:24-32 came to his mind. As soon as he could, he hurried home. After midnight, he fell on his knees and said, "Lord, save me." He wondered about a lack of some new emotion, but soon claimed the promise, rose from his knees saved at age 13. He later said, "I rested on the Word of God and confessed Christ as my Saviour."