Hitherto Hath the Lord Helped Us
Remarks by Messrs. T.J. Burtness, Anton E. Erickson, Thomas S. Smith, and John E. Erickson at the Watch Night Service, When the Last Note of Indebtedness was Destroyed.
Introduction by Mr. Burtness
When this magnificent building was dedicated in 1925, there was outstanding against it a debt of approximately $550,000, made up of a mortgage bond issue of $450,000 and bank loans and unpaid bills adding up to another $100,000.
In these days of astronomic governmental expenditures, when talk of billions is on everyone’s lips, thousands and hundreds of thousands do not seem so stupendous. However $550,000 is a lot of money in any language. At least I am very certain that both Dr. Ironside and Dr. Philpott, who together have raised practically every dollar of this entire sum, agree that it is.
The Pastor has said more than once that when he talks about money beyond three figures he gets lost; if, with his mind, that be true, then what about most of the rest of us?
Perhaps therefore it might be helpful to attempt to visualize just what a lot it is. Let us get it all into one dollar bills and lay them end to end. That line of money would extend a distance of fifty-three miles, or roughly from Evanston to Cedar Lake, Indiana.
Or take those dollar bills and place them end to end and side to side. They would cover a sidewalk from the Church at North Avenue to the Institute at Chicago Avenue, 11 feet, 7 ½ inches wide. But I am not here to feed you a lot of financial statistics; I am here to present three men who will have some interesting things to tell you. The first will cover the period of Dr. Philpott’s administration, during which our present church home was planned and erected. He will possibly tell of some of the joys and difficulties, the ups and downs. He was a member of the Building Committee, and is now Chairman of our Board of Trustees, Mr. Anton E. Erickson.
Remarks by Mr. Anton E. Erickson
I have been asked to speak to you for a few minutes regarding some of the things which took place a year or so before the erection of this building and also during its construction as I was then a Trustee and also a member of the Building Committee and had much information regarding the plans and decisions that were made.
After the selling of the Church property at Chicago Avenue and LaSalle Street, a frame structure was built on these premises; this building was to be temporary, but became somewhat permanent.
At this time, the building had deteriorated to such an extent that it was almost impossible to keep the property in condition for public meetings and the city authorities were considering condemning it. As a result many members of the Church and congregation left and went to other places of worship and there was a feeling of unrest throughout the entire organization.
During this period, the finances of the Church suffered and the expenses were greater than the income.
With a $72,000 mortgage on the property and other obligations in the amount of approximately $50,000, making a total of $125,000, it became the concern of our Executive Committee and members of the Church.
I remember calling on Mr. J.B. Bowles at his office and speaking to him regarding the Church activities and he said that some of the members of our committee felt it was time to call a pastor to head up the work here and he mentioned Dr. P.W. Philpott who was then pastor of a church in Hamilton, Canada and if he would accept the call as pastor of the Church, perhaps God would continue the testimony of The Moody Church here in Chicago.
Perhaps these were the darkest days in the history of The Moody Church.
The matter of calling Dr. Philpott was presented to the Executive Committee and as a result a call was made which he accepted.
We shall never forget the first Sunday morning in which Dr. Philpott occupied the pulpit as pastor; he expressed his desire to be used by God in behalf of The Moody Church and called upon us to pray that The Moody Church might have a greater testimony than ever in the days ahead. At the close of the sermon he called upon Mrs. Philpott to pray; Mrs. Philpott then commended her husband and the work of the Church to the Lord that he might be used in the uniting of His people in this place for a greater service than ever before.
This was a new day in the history of The Moody Church and things began to be brighter and new hope and courage was instilled in all.
Some disappointments came, but these were found later to be God’s way for better things. One was that the $72,000 mortgage on the property came due and could not be renewed satisfactorily to the Church.
Dr. Philpott had by this time gained the confidence of the membership and congregation. He suggested that he present the matter to the congregation on Sunday and ask that individuals loan the Church enough to pay off the mortgage and that the Church give notes as security. The date was set for receiving applications and money and, as a result, over $80,000 was paid in or subscribed for.
This was the beginning of a financing program which termination we are celebrating tonight by burning the last trustees’ note.
Many prayer meetings were held in regard to the future of things to be accomplished and soon Dr. Philpott informed us that he believed it was time for The Moody Church to make plans for the erection of a new building and he believed he had been called to head up the program and that plans should be started at once.
Architects submitting plans found it would not require the entire lot to build a Church and Sunday School building and that the North Avenue frontage was not the best location as entrance, so it was decided to sell 100 feet of the North Avenue frontage to John R. Thompson for $300,000 cash. About this time, an estate that was left to the Church by one of its friends and which had been in litigation for several years was settled and the Church received approximately $40,000 and at a later date a $23,000 balance.
Cedar Lake properties were disposed of and the Church received several thousands of dollars from the Cedar Lake Conference Association who took over the conference grounds and are now carrying on the work there.
Dr. T. Divine carried on a campaign for raising moneys which brought in thousands of dollars in cash and pledges to the extent of approximately $500,000, payable over a period of five years.
With approximately $400,000 cash on hand, the Church was in a position to commence building. The balance of the money needed was borrowed by placing a first mortgage bond issue on the property in the amount of $550,000; these bonds were purchased by members of the Church, congregation and friends with the understanding that the bonds would be paid upon request including interest to date.
This has been the policy throughout the years and there has always been a waiting list of investors for Moody Church securities.
A few years ago there was talk of having some investment house take up the balance of our indebtedness. It was the feeling of some that this generation would never pay up the large debt, but tonight we see it has been accomplished and many are here this evening who were here at the time the building was erected.
Later on Dr. Philpott suggested placing an organ in the Church as he did not feel it was complete without one; this was done at an expense of $45,000 and was also financed through the issuance of trustees notes.
Time will not permit me to tell of the spiritual work that was going on during these days, but suffice to say God’s blessing was upon the Church activities.
So, in behalf of The Moody Church Executive Committee, its members and friends, I wish to thank you (Dr. Philpott) for all you have accomplished for us; we will pray for you as you continue in the Lord’s service. We are so happy to have you here with us this evening and when you return home please tell Mrs. Philpott that The Moody Church members and friends also wish to thank her for her help and guidance during your years as pastor.
Thank you, Mr. Erickson.
The next speaker, as the first, needs of course no introduction. He has been around The Moody Church so long that the mind of man runneth not to the contrary. He was brought into the fellowship of this church by Mr. Moody himself and has always been active in his efforts and liberal with his means. He too was a member of that Building Committee and of course familiar with its growing pains, but will confine his remarks to the period covered by Dr. Ironside’s ministry.
I present our beloved Elder, Thomas S. Smith.
Remarks by Mr. Thomas S. Smith
I appreciate the kind introductory remarks of my good friend, Mr. Burtness.
When Dr. Philpott left us we were all very much concerned whether our new pastor, Dr. Ironside, would be able to take up collections as well as our former pastor, especially to raise the money for the missionary program. Just like many of our other fears, this one was groundless, for we have never had one who was better in taking collections than our own Dr. Ironside.
We believe that Dr. Philpott was surely guided of God when he suggested that we call Dr. Ironside to be our pastor, for he knew the church would be well pleased with one who knew the Scriptures as Dr. Ironside did, and one who was a tireless worker. I have never heard him “pull a blank” in preaching; in fact, it seems as though every time we hear him his message is better than the time before. We can truly thank God upon every remembrance of him. He has been with us longer than any other pastor, but we are not tired of him and we love him more than ever.
Thank you, Mr. Smith.
Before presenting the next speaker, I would like to convert those 550,000 one dollar bills we played with a few moments ago, into silver dollars, and take you with me, in imagination, downtown to the corner of LaSalle Street and Jackson Boulevard. There let us gaze skyward to the tip of the Statue of Ceres, which surmounts the top of the Board of Trade Building, the highest point in Chicago, 605 feet from street level.
Let us pile these silver dollars one on top of another and see how high we go. Up, up, up we go, to the top; not once, or twice, or thrice, but, think of it, eight and a quarter times.
Yes, I repeat, that debt was a lot of money, but praise the Lord, it’s paid. Every dollar of principal and interest honorably paid as it became due, through good times and bad, through prosperity and depression.
As to the two speakers I have already presented, I told you something concerning the subject of their remarks. As to the next speaker I am not permitted to “let the cat out of the bag;” all I can tell you is that he will make, we think, a very interesting announcement.
The man who will make this announcement has been among you, lo these many years, an Elder, and Chairman of the Finance Committee, Mr. John E. Erickson.
Remarks by Mr. John E. Erickson
Mr. Chairman, Honored Guests, and Friends: You will bear with me if I make use of a few prepared remarks. My time is limited. I am obliged to economize on words in order to say all that is on my heart in the short time allotted to me. I am obliged to follow lay speakers who have a natural gift in making extemporaneous talks. I am not a literary genius, as in the case of Dr. Ironside, nor gifted like Dr. Hammontree who thinks and utters words of wisdom while on his feet. Moreover, I do not possess a golden throat nor do I have a million dollar voice, like Gipsy Smith. Besides this, I do not have any delusions of grandeur. I am merely a hard-headed professional man.
Lincoln’s immortal Gettysburg speech was prepared and delivered and later retouched, as historians inform us. Moreover, it is common knowledge that even the fire side chats by our learned and eloquent President [Franklin D. Roosevelt] over the radio networks are prepared, some by himself, and some by others.
I can most heartily endorse all that has been said by my brethren in their recounting some of the many accomplishments by Dr. Philpott during his pastorate and then of Dr. Ironside during the years that he has served this Church.
I know that many others of our Executive Committee would appreciate giving their testimonials on this occasion if they had the opportunity and time would permit.
It would be no exaggeration to say that after all that has been said and that could be recounted and related that in the language of the Queen of Sheba, that the half would then not have been told.
During the last few weeks, the money has flowed into the Church Building Fund so fast that it has gone beyond our wildest dreams. The rush became so accelerated within the last few days that on Monday of this week, we were most pleasantly surprised to find that you folks and many friends outside of the Church had, by your gracious and generous gifts, gone away over the top. The entire building debt has been overpaid by nearly $2,000.00.
One of the halls in our Sunday School building has been named in honor of Dr. Philpott. That, however, does not, except in a very small degree, express the deep, deep appreciation and debt of gratitude that this Church and this City and Community owes to our former pastor for the vision that he had and the leadership which he assumed in visualizing the erection of this magnificent building and outstanding memorial to D.L. Moody. It was Dr. Philpott who showed us, not only how to build, but how to finance the project without any cost in the financing, and then, of equal importance, how to pay the building debt. Nearly $200,000 of the principal, besides a large sum of interest, had already been paid at the close of his pastorate. In those years, the interest amounted to over $20,000 annually.
Dr. Ironside answered the call to this Church shortly after the worst financial depression of this generation had set in with appalling effect. Our building debt then stood at the staggering sum of $375,000.00. Any one of a less stout heart and faith in the Lord’s faithfulness would have faltered at the stupendous problem of The Moody Church’s financial situation which a new pastor was obliged to face.
He, however, has never wavered in his determination to meet the challenge—that of ridding the Church of this debt. He has labored at the task, both at home and abroad, most untiringly. He has pledged and given thereto most generously and seemingly beyond his personal means. He has inaugurated various methods and drives to stimulate and encourage giving whereby throughout the years there has been a constant flow of moneys coming into the Building Fund so that the weekly receipts have been from $300.00 to as much as $1,000.00.
Our Trustees, Finance Committee, Executive Committee, our members and friends, near and far, rejoice with you tonight, Dr. Ironside, in the accomplishment and the Lord’s favor so graciously visited upon Moody Church in the lifting of this debt. Surely He has answered, as promised in Malachi 3:10.
Our people will never be able to pay the debt of gratitude it owes to Dr. Philpott for his vision, leadership, labor of love, untiring efforts, and his contribution in giving us and Chicago this magnificent temple for worship.
Our people will never be able to pay the debt of gratitude it owes to you, Pastor Ironside, not even during the next fourteen years of your pastorate, for your determination, perseverance, and ultimate success in completing the payment of the building debt.
There is now no room, hall or section of this great building that could be named to honor our Pastor. In view of this situation, and also for the further reason that you, Pastor, have conceived the idea of beautifying this auditorium with art glass windows to replace the drab, glary, plain windows, so long in use, the Trustees, Finance Committee and Executive Committee have deemed it fitting and proper, on this occasion, to announce to Dr. Philpott and yourself [Dr. Ironside], as well as to our congregation that a complete set of art windows will be installed in honor of Dr. Philpott and one in honor of yourself [Dr. Ironside]. The total cost thereof is to be borne and paid for by the Church with funds now on hand in our building account. The installation is to be made as soon as can be done by the contractor and his artisans.
In doing this, we wish to assure you that this expression of our appreciation of your ministry, service, faithfulness, interest in the work, and the respective contributions, both in efforts and means, made in behalf of this Church, whereby this glorious enterprise for the Kingdom of God has been brought to a successful conclusion, is but a very small token of the love, regard, admiration, and esteem that we hold for both of you.
You friends who would have coveted the opportunity to make a contribution to defray the costs of these window installations, to honor our pastors, will not find it too late to have a part in completing the installation in the other alcoves of the building. We would appeal particularly to some of you large families who could easily do this in memory of some departed loved one. If you do not do so soon, the chances are greater than ever that Dr. Ironside will raise the money and have the entire project completed while you may be thinking it over.
Let us then, for the present, draw on our imagination a bit and visualize that these windows are already installed, which they will be in the near future, barring any and all unforeseen eventualities.
It, therefore, becomes my high honor and pleasure, Dr. Philpott, on behalf of the Trustees, Finance Committee, Executive Committee, the members of this Church and congregation, to present to you, in your honor, one complete set of art windows in this or that alcove of the Moody Memorial Church Auditorium.
We trust that you can be present at a later date at the unveiling; that you will frequently and for many years to come have occasion to view this gift from this sacred platform, when God’s sunshine will cast its beneficent light thereupon and you will be reminded of the many friendships you have here made, together with the love, devotion, regard and esteem that the people of The Moody Church will ever have for you.
It, therefore, also becomes my distinctive honor and pleasure, Dr. Ironside, on behalf of the Trustees, Finance Committee, Executive Committee, the members of this Church and congregation, to present to you, in your honor, one complete set of art windows in this or that alcove of the Moody Memorial Church Auditorium.
As you will view this gift from this sacred platform both at day and night, you will necessarily be reminded of the strong, Christian tie that binds us together in this fellowship; that God has graciously crowned your efforts with a remarkable success; that you, here, have made many and lasting friendships and that in the years to come, as you shall continue your ministry in this pastorate, you will ever be conscious of the great love, devotion, regard, and esteem that the people of The Moody Church now have and ever will have for you.