The life story of Harry Ironside cannot be punctuated with his inner thoughts and general philosophy. It is a tale of a man in motion. He had little time for the kind of meditative essays that may be found in the writings of the Puritans and the saintly authors of the nineteenth century. This is not to say that Harry did not commune with God. How could a man live in the Scriptures as he did without honoring and adoring the Persons of the Godhead—God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit? He delighted in knowing by his own experience the favor of God, a fact that is easily discernible in his diaries.

Today has tried me much but “I will trust, and not be afraid.” . . . Thou knowest, O Lord.

My 38th birthday. Surely more than half my life is done.22 Even though the Saviour’s coming should not take place in my time, it would seem to be very near. Oh, to use the time that remains more for God than the time that is past.

Cares weigh my spirit, and I find it difficult to rise above them. Lord, help me to confide in Thee more implicitly.

“Reckon ye yourselves dead indeed unto sin” (Romans 6:11). I feel very keenly how feebly I enter into all this.

Harry was devoted to his family, and while the relationship between him and Helen was not always smooth, this is not astonishing. It is not that Helen was unsympathetic with his calling or not proud of his accomplishments. However, Harry’s zeal for Christ and conscientiousness in exercising it took him away from home so much—sometimes for weeks or months—that life was not easy for his wife. This may be somewhat of an understatement. The responsibility of bringing up and disciplining two young boys was entirely hers. Furthermore, for more than twenty years the household was run on a hand-to-mouth financial program. This disturbed Helen. It is easy to cite an old adage that “all is well when it is God’s hand that feeds our mouths,” a maxim that is true indeed; but ask anyone who has lived “by faith” how difficult His testing is sometimes. Helen trusted the Lord to supply her needs according to His promises, yet making ends meet required that she stretch the cord mighty tight sometimes.

Helen was somewhat temperamental and it bothered her that so many silly women made a fuss over her husband. When he was home she was possessive of him; when he was away from home she was jealous of him. There can be no question that Harry had a burning compulsion to preach the Word whenever and wherever he could do so and rarely declined an invitation to speak, unless it was physically impossible for him to accept. But there is some question as to the wisdom of his extended absences from his home. It is not fair to Helen, however, to suggest that she opposed Harry’s itinerant ministry. Often in their early days they prayed together about the matter. The Lord came first in their lives—this was always so. They sought will and submitted to it insofar as they knew it. Many commercial salesmen are on the road as much as Harry was, and Harry was an ambassador of the King! Should he sacrifice less than they?

In the thousands of pages of HAI’s diary he mentions again and again his affection for Helen. He reveals that he missed her a great deal, that he was thinking of her and remembering such-and-such an occasion and how much he disliked being away from his family. No matter what city he visited he tried to find some little gift to take to her when he should get home. It might be only a piece of ribbon, a handkerchief, a small trinket of some kind, but almost always something. I know this because I was with him on a number of occasions when he did his shopping—often at a drugstore or a five-and-ten, to be sure, but this only because he had little money to spend. In later years he was able to do better. For example, one time Harry brought a present from Canada. His diary reads: “Helen was delighted with some English china I brought over.” On another occasion, when HAI had been in Dallas for the week preceding Good Friday and Easter, he came home without a gift. The next night he wrote in his journal, “After lunch I went down town [in Chicago] and bought a couple of dresses for Helen. She likes them very much.” There is pathos in Harry’s comments in his 1947 journal, when Helen was quite ill. After having completed a series of messages in Florida he wrote:

March 4, 1947

En route to Chicago. Was thoroughly tired physically and mentally, and slept nearly all day. … I keep thinking of Helen and hoping and praying all is going well with her.

Here and there comments appear about “poor Helen” this and “poor Helen” that, or “Helen sick at 11 P.M. Had to be up with her all night,” or “Helen coughed a great deal,” and “Helen is not at all well. I am much concerned about her.” Only about one entry in nearly 7,500 pages suggests less than complete accord between husband and wife, and this was at a time when she was unwell.

June 30, 1947

Helen does not seem well. She broods a good deal. I wish there might be more of the joy of the Lord.

With Harry Ironside there was never anyone else than Helen Schofield Ironside. She was the wife of his youth and of his mature years also. It would never have occurred to him to look at another woman. Once, when a lovely lady chided him gently for not recalling that he had met her several years earlier at a certain Bible conference, he responded, “Well, you know, I simply don’t remember all the nice ladies I meet. You see, I have a perfectly good wife at home.”

During their half century of marriage the Ironsides experienced times of rejoicing and times of sorrow. Their two sons, both of whom wandered far from the Lord as young men, were restored to Him. It will be recalled that Edmund came back to Christ after he and Freda had lost all that they possessed in the Florida hurricane of 1928. The senior Ironsides were filled with joy at Ed’s return to the Lord, and then in 1939, when John and Sally committed themselves to Christ, Harry wrote:

The thing that has meant more to us this month than anything else has been a letter from John telling of his surrender to Christ for full-time service. It was so wonderfully written, and is the answer to our prayers of many years— and it just broke us down before the Lord.

In the summer of 1941 HAI was scheduled to direct the General Conference at Montrose, Pennsylvania. During the train trip from Chicago he was quite concerned about Edmund, who had suffered a coronary thrombosis a few days earlier. Harry’s journal on the day of his arrival reads:

July 25, 1941

Reached Buffalo at about 8:45 and left on D. L. & W. at 10 A.M. Arrived at New Milford about 4:50 and was driven to Montrose.

Just after dinner I received a telegram from Freda telling me that Edmund had just passed away. I have a son in Heaven—but oh, how I shall miss him down here!

I was with Dr. Ironside that day, since I too was to speak at the conference. Understandably Ed’s death at forty-two was a great shock to his father, who seemed stunned. After communicating with Helen and John he made arrangements to leave the next day for Dallas, where he preached Edmund’s funeral sermon. The topic: “Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift.” Entries in the diary are too personal and too sacred to be cited.

More than two hundred friends, both black and white, attended the service. No higher compliment to Ed and to his understanding of and interest in the black students at the Southern Bible Training Institute could have been paid than that which was spoken by one of them, “Edmund Ironside was the blackest white man I ever knew.”

Life and work must go on, and within a few days HAI was back in the harvest field. Yet the shock of Edmund’s death weighed heavily upon him for many months and left him brain-weary. He knew that the Lord does all things well. He rejoiced for Ed, but try as he would he seemed unable to cast off a blanket of grief. Time heals, though, and in due course—really through the months of sorrow—Harry’s confidence in the love of God and His peace sustained him. Writing me later about Edmund and his seemingly unfinished task, HAI said:

Nature would try to raise questions, but faith rests in the sense of the infinite wisdom and love of God. Our hearts find wonderful peace as we dwell on the blessed estate of the dead in Christ. Surely nothing can be more wonderful than this: “They shall see His face.” And then when we talk of work interrupted, we need to remember there is a work over yonder doubtless far more important than anything which can be done here, for it is written: “His servants shall serve Him.”

In 1934 Harry purchased a house in Wheaton, Illinois, because Lillian was to enter Wheaton Academy that autumn. He had seen the faith of his sons wrecked in secular institutions of higher learning and he wanted to spare Lillian that travail. It seemed senseless for her to commute between Chicago and Wheaton and, in view of the fact that he himself was away from the city much of the time during the week, the Wheaton house could serve as home for Helen and Lillian. On weekends they could come into Chicago, where he would still maintain an apartment in the Plaza Hotel.

Lillian graduated from Wheaton Academy in 1938 and from Wheaton College in 1943. In 1944 she married Gilbert Koppin, Jr. who was in the armed services at the time, receiving his discharge in 1946.23 In 1944, therefore, Helen moved back to the hotel in Chicago.

Throughout his whole life Harry had little time for relaxation, especially after the mid-twenties. In the California years he went fishing several times but, as he admitted, he caught very few fish. “Others got some

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