A.B. Simpson is the founder of our movement called the Christian and Missionary Alliance. As an immigrant from Canada, Simpson served as a Presbyterian pastor in Louisville, Kentucky.
His wife Maggie was a key part of Albert’s ministry throughout their lives together, but as you read this briefing you will see they didn’t always see eye to eye.
Simpson had a dream that He discerned as a divine message that seemed to be a call to the Chinese people.
The year was 1878, and Simpson’s heart was drawn to be a missionary to China, as his wife gave birth to their fourth child. He applied, though his wife told him that he was free to go to China alone but that she and their children would not be going. The mission board turned down Simpson, saying he was too old at the age of 35, too unhealthy and had too many kids.
This was a vision from the Lord about reaching the nations, but the way that A.B. Simpson applied the dream was not correct. The Lord began shaping his heart at that point to be dissatisfied with simply reaching those in Louisville, and his heart began to burn for the nations of the world.
As this passion intensified, his interest in New York City grew stronger. New York has always been a melting pot of different immigrants from the nations, and A.B. Simpson felt that he could begin to reach nations if he was there.
Maggie dug her heels in and after reading her husband’s journal entries about possibly relocating to New York, she tore out the pages and threw them away. She couldn’t understand why he would want to take their family to such a place. After all, Albert had declared New York City to be: “a corrupt sin-committing, Sabbath-breaking, mammon-loving, God-defying Gotham.” Maggie was afraid of raising their children in such a place. Again, there was more conflict between the two of them, with Maggie distant and removed and the children crying often.
A.B. Simpson was trying to reconcile what he felt was God’s voice calling them on a number of occasions. He was intently seeking God and trying to figure out how to navigate his relationships at the same time. Though he was a great man of God, he didn’t always go about things in the best ways. He reached out to an elder in their church for wise counsel – and the man implored Albert to simply get on his knees and pray for his wife.
A year later, against his wife’s wishes, the family boarded a train to New York City, and Maggie and the kids sat in a different car than Albert in protest. In the midst of all this strife in his family, A.B. Simpson preached his first sermon in the city from Acts 1:8. That message was all about our need for the power of the Holy Spirit to reach the nations. He knew that this new assignment would not work if he tried to do it in his own strength.
Maggie’s fear of the city eventually subsided as she trusted the Lord more and more, and saw hundreds of Italian dock workers give their lives to Jesus. When the elders of their church opposed these “stinky” immigrants from attending their church for fear they would “spoil” things A.B. Simpson resigned his position and once again Maggie’s faith would be tested.
Simpson learned early on in his life that God is always speaking, and so he took a continual posture of listening. I think Albert was at his best when he was seeking the Lord with others and not trying to do things by himself.
We can learn from his example in two ways.
1) We must incline our ear to listen for the divine whispers of God, believing that He is always speaking and leading.
2) We must also seek confirmation from others and be open to the wisdom of heaven that flows through our trusted friends.
So, as you walk through today will you listen for God’s whispers that continually flow?
As you sense that you are hearing what God is saying, will you take a risk and share them with others?
Listening, testing and obeying God’s whispers are part of the adventure in life to the fullest with Jesus.
You can read more about our founder on the CMA website, or check out the many books he has written available at Amazon.