September 9, 2020
A.J. Gordon (1836–1895) was an American Baptist preacher, writer, hymn composer, advocate for foreign missions and founder of Gordon College and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.
This year is the 125th anniversary of his death.
He was born on April 19, 1836, in New Hampton, New Hampshire, to John Calvin and Sally Gordon. His father, a Calvinist, was named after John Calvin. A.J. was named after Adoniram Judson, a Baptist missionary to Burma.
He was about 15 years old when he had a conversion experience and was baptized in a stream near his father’s mill. The next year he felt God leading him into the ministry.
In 1860 he graduated from Brown University (then Baptist-affiliated). In 1863 he completed Newton Theological Seminary.
Becoming a pastor
He married Maria Hale in 1863 and became pastor of Jamaica Plain Baptist Church in Roxbury, Massachusetts. He had six successful years at the church.
In 1869, he became pastor of Boston’s Clarendon Street Baptist Church and served there until his death. The church was described as “one of the most spiritual and aggressive in America.”
Gordon was an influential evangelical leader. An avid promoter of foreign missions, he spread the gospel worldwide through his traveling, preaching and writing.
He served on the executive committee of the American Baptist Missionary Union from 1871, and as chair after 1888.
He was a favorite speaker at evangelist Dwight L. Moody’s meetings. In 1886 he addressed Moody’s Northfield Conference when the initial 100 student volunteers launched what became the Student Volunteer Movement.
Speaking at the 1888 London Centenary Conference on the Protestant Missions of the World, he became an international apologist for missions. He traveled through Scotland to strengthen missions.
In 1889, he founded the Boston Missionary Training Institute. It graduated 50 missionaries in its first decade and later evolved into Gordon College and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.
He wrote many books, including “The Ministry of Healing,” a highly regarded book about divine healing.
He composed hymn tunes for at least 15 hymns. One of his most famous tunes was for “My Jesus, I Love Thee,” found in Baptist hymnals for many decades. Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, Casting Crowns and others have recorded the beloved hymn.
Gordon became suddenly ill with influenza and bronchitis and died on Feb. 2, 1895. His last audible word was “victory.”
One of his famous sayings was, “You can do more than pray after you have prayed, but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed.”