Christians You Should Know: R.A. Torrey September 7, 2023

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The just man walketh in his integrity: his children are blessed after him.” – Proverbs 20:7

A Snapshot of the Life of Reuben Archer Torrey:

Born: Jan. 28, 1856 – Hoboken, New Jersey
Died: Oct. 26, 1928 – Biltmore, North Carolina

First President of Moody Bible Institute, 1889-1908; Bible Institute of Los Angeles (CA), 1912-24; and founder and first director of Montrose (PA) Bible Conference, 1908-28. Torrey did many things well. He served as pastor, educator, evangelist, and author, having few equals in these fields. He was converted at Yale University in 1875 and pastored the Congregational Church, Garrettsville, OH from 1872-82. Torrey married Clara Smith on October 22, 1879. He also pastored the Open Door Church (1883-86), and Peoples Church (1886-89), both in Minneapolis. In 1889, he became associated with D. L. Moody. He pastored Moody Church, Chicago (1894-1902), and Church of the Open Door, Los Angeles, CA (1915-24), which he helped organize. He was a world evangelist (1902-5), evangelist in the U.S. and Canada (1906-11), then went back to Great Britain in 1911. In Australia, he saw 20,000 converted, with his tour ending with a five-month London crusade. Music director Charles Alexander assisted him from 1901 on. He saw over 100,000 people converted. His forty books are considered Christian classics and range from How I Bring Men to Christ (1893) to Lectures on the First Epistle of John (pub. 1929). He died at his home where he retired in 1924, and is buried on the grounds of MBC. – (Excerpt taken from the Reese Chronological Encyclopedia of Christian Biographies. Used by permission.)

A Spiritual Application for Our Lives:

Dr. R.A. Torrey lived a truly remarkable life. His work extended the ministry of other great preachers. He was a close friend and helper to D.L. Moody.

Torrey was born into a wealthy Christian family. His mother prayed for him and invested deeply in young Torrey’s life. Although, somewhat liberal in their doctrine, the Torrey family strictly observed Sunday as the Lord’s Day and used it to study the Word of God. R.A. was an incredibly bright young student and entered college at age fifteen. It was in college that his inward battle came to a head. Still lost, Torrey felt that God wanted him in the ministry, and determined that he would not become a Christian to avoid this calling. Yet, God was working all the time. One night, after several disappointments, the tormented Torrey sprang out of bed to end his own life. But the Lord met him in that moment and Torrey cried out to the Lord for salvation!

Torrey later attributed his conversion to the faithful prayers of his dear mothers. Torrey stated, “and though I had gotten over sermons and arguments and churches, and everything else, I could not get over my mother’s prayers.” What a stirring reminder to stay faithful in prayer for those we love. Torrey’s dear mother would only live two years beyond his conversion, but she had prayed with a heart of faith. You may not see the results of your prayers in this life, but  you can be certain that God is at work! The Bible teaches us that “…the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16b). Through Christ, we can be made righteous. Through Christ we can see great things done by prayer.

R.A. Torrey spent several years battling and wrestling with issues of the faith. He struggled to accept the inerrancy of God’s Word. At last, by faith, Torrey did accept that the Bible is God’s perfect Book. He began to understand its transforming power, and for the rest of his life saw God’s mighty work done by His Word. Many thousands came to Christ by the preaching and personal evangelism of R.A. Torrey. Many more thousands came to Christ through Dr. Torrey’s labor in helping to establish the Moody Bible Institute and his unrelenting aid to Mr. Moody. He was a true Christian. His public work and his private faith were the same. Torrey’s daughter wrote: “If I were not a believer, the very consistency of my father’s life would force me to become a believer.

May we, by God’s help, seek to be found faithful. For while Torrey was a faithful man, he was just a servant, and we are servants of the same great Master that Torrey served.

A Suggestion for Further Reading…

R.A. Torrey: Apostle of Certainty – Dr. Roger Martin, 1976

How to Pray – R.A. Torrey

How to Study the Bible – R.A. Torrey

How I Bring Men to Christ – R.A. Torrey

*Dr. Torrey wrote dozens of helpful books. Many are still in print; you can easily and affordably obtain a copy of dozens of them.*

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