Albert Benjamin Simpson, often referred to as simply A B Simpson, was a famous Canadian evangelical minister whose major achievement was the founding of the Christian and Missionary Alliance (generally known as the C&MA). When he set about the creation of this organisation in the 19th century his vision was that it should become simply a movement in world evangelism. The C&MA would eventually play a leading role in evangelism worldwide. As well as being a popular theologian Simpson was a prolific writer of hymns and it is believed that he wrote at least 120 with 77 of them eventually being published in a 1962 collection of C&MA hymns called Hymns of the Christian Life.
He was born in Cavendish, a town on Prince Edward Island on the 15th December 1843 into a strict Calvinist household. His parents were of the Scottish Presbyterian and Puritan tradition whose ancestors had arrived in Canada in the 1790s. It was inevitable that Albert would adopt their strict faith and he was tutored by an Irish visiting evangelist. He went on to theology training at Knox College, a part of the University of Toronto. He graduated from there at the age of 22 and was then ordained into the Canada Presbyterian Church.
He moved to Louisville, Kentucky in 1873 where he was appointed minister at the Chestnut Street Presbyterian Church, which was the largest Presbyterian church in town. He was inspired here to start preaching the gospel to the common man and was successful in this venture, although he felt a little restricted in that he was unable to spread the evangelical message as widely as he wanted to at that time. This all changed though when, in 1880, he took up an appointment in New York City and found here a much bigger audience for his preaching of the gospel.
He was a busy writer in New York, with his missionary journal, The Gospel in All Lands, being the first of his kind to be published with pictures included. He followed this up with another similar publication called The Word, Work, and World which, by 1911, was known as The Alliance Weekly. It still exists today under the title a. life. The magazine is now read all over the United States and Canada and is acknowledged as the C&MA’s official publication.
Two years after taking up the New York appointment he resigned in order to concentrate as an independent minister on the plight of the neglected masses and new immigrants in the city. He began teaching on an informal basis and this led to a more formal structure with multi-cultural training being provided for both ministers and missionaries. From humble beginnings Simpson built this teaching facility gradually until, eventually, it became the Nyack College and Alliance Theological Seminary.
In 1889 Simpson set up the New York Tabernacle which became the centre of evangelism in the city as well as a base for his dream of worldwide missions. He became really successful in his quest simply through his energy and natural genius as an effective preacher and author of inspirational hymns. His vision is encapsulated in his famous piece, A Missionary Cry. Here are a couple of verses, and the repeated refrain, from this hymn:
The legacy of A B Simpson lives on with a number of C&MA churches and educational establishments worldwide bearing his name. He remained in New York City though and both he and his wife are buried on the campus of Nyack College.
Albert Benjamin Simpson died on the 29th October 1919 aged 75.