How God Used R.A. Torrey: A Short Biography as Told Through His Sermons

How God Used R.A. Torrey: A Short Biography as Told Through His Sermons

by Fred Sanders

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Sermons to change you, a life to inspire you.

Scholar, expositor, storyteller, and evangelist, R. A. Torrey was a master-of-all-trades minister. Crowds worldwide called his preaching “that famous Torrey thing.” 

And that famous Torrey thing won souls.

Inside are the most famous, influential, and characteristic of his sermons. Though nearly a century old, they challenge us anew from Scripture and are greatly instructive to any who preach.

Drawn from various periods of Torrey’s ministry, and prefaced with bibliographic commentary, these sermons paint a portrait of a man gripped by God. But even more they grip the reader. They take us into the great halls where God’s Word bellowed forth from Torrey and left his audiences hushed. It’s no wonder that Torrey caught the attention of the great evangelist D. L. Moody.

Be ready to be provoked. Like an archer who strikes with both accuracy and force, Torrey preached with clarity while cutting deep to the heart. Behind the bow you’ll see a man fully sold on the kingdom of God, and you’ll be inspired to follow suit.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780802492265
Publisher: Moody Publishers
Publication date: 04/17/2015
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 1,127,536
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

Fred Sanders is Professor of Theology at Biola University's Torrey Honors Institute. A popular blogger and speaker, Sanders has authored numerous journal articles and written or contributed to several books, including The Image of the Immanent Trinity. He blogs at

Read an Excerpt

How God Used R. A. Torrey

A Short Biography as Told Through His Sermons

By Fred Sanders, JAMES VINCENT

Moody Publishers

Copyright © 2015 Fred Sanders
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8024-1268-3


Ten Reasons Why I Believe The Bible Is the Word of God


This early sermon on the authority of Scripture provides a glimpse of Torrey's mental and spiritual development. As a young minister, he had been slow to accept the full inspiration of Scripture, and he begins this sermon with a partial testimony to how his mind changed. One of the secrets of Torrey's effectiveness in preaching was that he mixed apologetics and direct evangelistic appeal judiciously, confronting his audience with convincing arguments and direct invitations to respond to the gospel. This sermon is an early example of that method, a sermon Torrey gave often in various forms. In fact, at the other end of his career, in the 1920s, Torrey would deliver a version of this sermon on the radio and also have it recorded: the only audio recording we have of R. A. Torrey preaching.

I was brought up to believe that the Bible was the Word of God. In early life I accepted it as such upon the authority of my parents and never gave the question any serious thought. But later in life my faith in the Bible was utterly shattered through the influence of the writings of a very celebrated, scholarly, and brilliant skeptic. I found myself face-to-face with the question, Why do you believe the Bible is the Word of God?

I had no satisfactory answer. I determined to go to the bottom of this question. If satisfactory proof could not be found that the Bible was God's Word, I would give the whole thing up, cost what it might. If satisfactory proof could be found that the Bible was God's Word, I would take my stand upon it, cost what it might. I doubtless had many friends who could have answered the question satisfactorily, but I was unwilling to confide to them the struggle that was going on in my own heart; so I sought help from God and from books, and after much painful study and thought came out of the darkness of skepticism into the broad daylight of faith and certainty that the Bible from beginning to end is God's Word. The following pages are largely the outcome of that experience of conflict and final victory. I will give ten reasons why I believe the Bible is the Word of God.

Ten Reasons the Bible Is the Word of God: 1. The Testimony of Jesus Christ

First, on the ground of the testimony of Jesus Christ.

Many people accept the authority of Christ who do not accept that of the Bible as a whole. We all must accept His authority. He is accredited to us by five divine testimonies: by the testimony of the divine life He lived; by the testimony of the divine words He spoke; by the testimony of the divine works He wrought; by the divine attestation of the resurrection from the dead; and by the testimony of His divine influence upon the history of mankind. But if we accept the authority of Christ we must accept the authority of the Bible as a whole. He testifies definitely and specifically to the divine authorship of the whole Bible.

We find His testimony as to the Old Testament in Mark 7:13. Here He calls the law of Moses the "Word of God." That, of course, covers only the first five books of the Old Testament, but in Luke 24:27 we read, "And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself" (emphasis added), and in the forty-fourth verse He said, "All things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms." The Jews divided the Old Testament into three parts—the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms—and Christ takes up each of these parts and sets the stamp of His authority upon it. In John 10:35 Christ says, "The scripture cannot be broken," thereby teaching the absolute accuracy and inviolability of the Old Testament. More specifically still, if possible, in Matthew 5:18, Jesus says, "One jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled." A jot is the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet—less than half the size of any other letter, and a tittle is the merest point of a consonant—less than the cross we put on a "t"—and Christ here declares that the Scripture is absolutely true, down to the smallest letter or point of a letter. So if we accept the authority of Christ, we must accept the divine authority of the entire Old Testament.

Now, as to the New Testament, we find Christ's endorsement of it in John 14:26: "The Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you." Here we see that not only was the teaching of the apostles to be fully inspired, but also their recollection of what Christ Himself taught. We are sometimes asked how we know that the apostles correctly reported what Jesus said—"may they not have forgotten?" True, they might forget, but Christ Himself tells us that in the Gospels we have, not the apostles' recollection of what He said but the Holy Ghost's recollection, and the Spirit of God never forgets. In John 16:13–14, Christ said that the Holy Ghost should guide the apostles into "all truth," therefore in the New Testament teaching we have the whole sphere of Gods truth. The teaching of the apostles is more complete than that of Jesus Himself, for He says in John 16:12, "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit, when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he shall guide you into all truth." While His own teaching had been partial, because of their weakness, the teaching of the apostles, under the promised Spirit, was to take in the whole sphere of God's truth.

So if we accept the authority of Christ we must accept that of the whole Bible, but we must, as already seen, accept Christ's authority.

2. Fulfilled Prophecies

The second reason I believe the Bible is the Word of God is because of its fulfilled prophecies.

There are two classes of prophecies in the Bible—first, the explicit, verbal prophecies; second, those of the types. In the first we have the definite prophecies concerning the Jews, the heathen nations, and the Messiah. Taking the prophecies regarding the Messiah as an illustration, look at Isaiah 53, Micah 5:2, Daniel 9:25–27. Many others might be mentioned, but these will serve as illustrations. In these prophecies, written hundreds of years before the Messiah came, we have the most explicit statements as to the manner and place of His birth, the manner of His reception by men, how His fife would end, His resurrection, and His victory succeeding His death. When made, these prophecies were exceedingly improbable, and seemingly impossible of fulfillment; but they were fulfilled to the minutest detail of manner and place and time. How are we to account for it? Man could not have foreseen these improbable events—they lay hundreds of years ahead—but God could, and it is God who speaks through these men.

But the prophecies of the types are more remarkable still. Everything in the Old Testament—history, institutions, ceremonies—is prophetical. The high priesthood, the ordinary priesthood, the Levites, the prophets, priests and kings are all prophecies. The tabernacle, the brazen altar, the laver, the golden candlestick, the table of shewbread, the veil, the altar of incense, the ark of the covenant, the very coverings of the tabernacle, all serve as prophecies. In all these things, as we study them minutely and soberly in the light of the history of Jesus Christ and the church, we see—wrapped up in the ancient institutions ordained of God to meet an immediate purpose—prophecies of the death, atonement, and resurrection of Christ, the day of Pentecost, and the entire history of the church. We see the profoundest Christian doctrines of the New Testament clearly foreshadowed in these institutions of the Old Testament.

The only way in which you can appreciate this is to get into the Book itself and study all about the sacrifices and feasts, etc., till you see the truths of the New Testament shining out in the Old. If, in studying some elementary form of life, I find a rudimentary organ, useless now, but by the process of development to become of use in that animal's descendant, I say, back of this rudimentary organ is God, who, in the earlier animal, is preparing for the life and necessities of the animal that is to come. So, going back to these preparations in the Bible for the truth that is to be clearly taught at a later day, there is only one scientific way to account for them, namely, He who knows and prepares for the end from the beginning is the author of that Book.

3. The Unity of the Book

The third reason I believe the Bible is the Word of God is the unity throughout the Book.

This is an old argument, but a very satisfactory one. The Bible consists of sixty-six books, written by more than thirty different men, extending in the period of its composition over more than fifteen hundred years; written in three different languages, in many different countries, and by men on every plane of social life, from the herdsman and fisherman and cheap politician up to the king upon his throne. It is written under all sorts of circumstances. Yet in all this conglomeration we find an absolute unity of thought.

A wonderful thing about it is that this unity does not lie on the surface. On the surface there is oftentimes apparent contradiction, and the unity only comes out after deep and protracted study.

More wonderful yet is the organic character of this unity, beginning in the first book and growing till you come to its culmination in the last book of the Bible. We have first the seed, then the plant, then the bud, then the blossom, then the ripened fruit.

Suppose a vast building were to be erected, the stones for which were brought from the quarries in Rutland, Vermont; Berea, Ohio; Kasota, Minnesota; and Middletown, Connecticut. Each stone was hewn into final shape in the quarry from which it was brought. These stones were of all varieties of shape—cubical, rectangular, cylindrical, etc.—and size, but when they were brought together every stone fitted into its place, and when put together there rose before you a temple absolutely perfect in every outline, with its domes, sidewalls, buttresses, arches, transepts—not a gap or a flaw anywhere.

How would you account for it? You would say: "Back of these individual workers in the quarries was the mastermind of the architect who planned it all, and gave to each individual worker his specifications for the work."

So in this marvelous temple of God's truth, which we call the Bible, whose stones have been quarried at periods of time and in places so remote from one another, but where every smallest part fits each other part, we are forced to say that back of the human hands that wrought was the Master-mind that thought.

4. The Superiority of the Bible's Teaching

I believe the Bible is the Word of God for a fourth reason: the immeasurable superiority of the teachings of the Bible to those of any other and all other books.

It is quite fashionable in some quarters to compare the teachings of the Bible with the teachings of Zoroaster and Buddha, Confucius and Epictetus, Socrates, and Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, and a number of other heathen authors. The difference between the teachings of the Bible and those of these men is found in three points.

First, the Bible has in it nothing but truth, while all the others have truth mixed with error. It is true Socrates taught how a philosopher ought to die; he also taught how a woman of the town ought to conduct her business. Jewels there are in the teachings of these men, but (as Joseph Cook once said) they are "jewels picked out of the mud."

Second, the Bible contains all truth. There is not a truth to be found anywhere on moral or spiritual subjects that you cannot find in substance within the covers of that old Book. I have often, when speaking upon this subject, asked anyone to bring me a single truth on moral or spiritual subjects, which, upon reflection, I could not find within the covers of this Book, and no one has ever been able to do it. I have taken pains to compare some of the better teachings of infidels with those of the Bible. They indeed have jewels of thought, but they are, whether they knew it or not, stolen jewels, and stolen from the very Book they ridicule.

The third point of superiority is this: the Bible contains more truth than all other books together. Get together from all literature of ancient and modern times all the beautiful thoughts you can; put away all the rubbish; put all these truths that you have culled from the literature of all ages into one book, and as the result, even then you will not have a book that will take the place of this one Book.

This is not a large Book. I hold in my hand a copy that I carry in my vest pocket, and yet in this one little Book there is more of truth than in all the books that man has produced in all the ages of his history. How will you account for it? There is only one rational way. This is not man's book but God's Book.

5. Its Ability to Withstand Attacks

A fifth reason I accept the Bible as the Word of God is its ongoing victories over attack.

This Book has always been hated. No sooner was it given to the world than it met the hatred of men, and they tried to stamp it out. Celsus tried it by the brilliancy of his genius, Porphyry by the depth of his philosophy; but they failed. Lucian directed against it the shafts of his ridicule, Diocletian the power of the Roman Empire; but they failed. Edicts backed by all the power of the empire were issued that every Bible should be burned, and that everyone who had a Bible should be put to death. For eighteen centuries every engine of destruction that human science, philosophy, wit, reasoning, or brutality could bring to bear against a book has been brought to bear against that Book to stamp it out of the world, but it has a mightier hold on the world today than ever before.

If that were man's book, it would have been annihilated and forgotten hundreds of years ago, but because there is in it "the hiding of God's power," though at times all the great men of the world have been against it, and only an obscure remnant for it, still it has fulfilled wonderfully the words of Christ, though not in the sense of the original prophecy, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my word shall not pass away."

6. The Character of Those who Accept and Those Who Reject the Bible

A sixth reason I accept the Bible as the Word of God is on the ground of the character of those who accept and of those who reject the Book.

Two things speak for the divinity of the Bible—the character of those who accept it and, equally, the character of those who reject it. I do not mean by this that every man who professes to believe the Book is better than every man that does not, but show me a man living an unselfish, devoted life, one who without reservation has surrendered himself to do the will of God, and I will show you a man who believes the Bible to be God's Word. On the other hand, show me a man who rejects the divine authority of that Book, and I will show you a man living a life of greed, or lust, or spiritual pride, or self-will.

Suppose you have a book purporting to be by a certain author, and the people best acquainted with that author say it is his, and the people least acquainted with him say it is not. Which will you believe? Now, the people best acquainted with God say the Bible is His Book; those who are least acquainted with God say it is not. Which will you believe?

Furthermore, as men grow better they are more likely to accept the Bible, and as they grow worse they are more likely to reject it. We have all known men who were both sinful and unbelieving, who by forsaking their sin lost their unbelief. Did any of us ever know a man who was sinful and believing, who by forsaking his sin lost his faith? The nearer men five to God, the more confident they are that the Bible is God's Word; the farther they get away from Him, the more confident they are that it is not.

Where is the stronghold of the Bible? In the pure, unselfish, happy home. Where is the stronghold of infidelity? The gambling hall, the drinking saloon, and the brothel. If a man should walk into a saloon and lay a Bible down upon the bar, and order a drink, we should think there was a strange incongruity in his actions, but if he should lay any infidel writing upon the bar, and order a drink, we would not feel that there was any incongruity.

7. The Influence of the Bible

I believe the Bible is the Word of God for a seventh reason: the influence of the Book.

There is more power in that little Book to save men, and purify, gladden, and beautify their lives, than in all other literature put together—more power to lift men up to God. A stream never rises higher than its source, and a book that has a power to lift men up to God that no other book has, must have come down from God in a way that no other book has.


Excerpted from How God Used R. A. Torrey by Fred Sanders, JAMES VINCENT. Copyright © 2015 Fred Sanders. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Torrey and His Sermons, by Fred Sanders
Part I: From the Years with Moody
1. “Ten Reasons Why I Believe the Bible is the Word of God”
2. “How to Prepare a Sermon”

Part II: From the Great World Tour
3. “Found Wanting”
4. “Every Man’s Need of a Refuge”
5. “Refuges of Lies”
6. “Three Fires”
7. “What the Resurrection of Jesus from the Dead Proves”
8. “God’s Blockade of the Road to Hell”
9. “The Most Effective Method of Soul-Winning”

Part III: From the Biola Years and After
10. “Walking as Jesus Walked”
11. “The Deity of the Holy Spirit and the Distinction between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”
12. “The Great Attraction, the Uplifted Christ”
13. “Why God used D.L. Moody”
14. “The Baptism with the Holy Spirit: What it is and What it does”

Appendix: Torrey’s Autobiography

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

R. A. Torrey (1856-1928) was one of the most important evangelical leaders most Christians have forgotten. A cross between Ravi Zacharias and Billy Graham, with a long-forgotten emphasis on Spirit baptism, he was a powerful apologist and winsome gospel preacher. This collection of his sermons serves as a great introduction to his life and ministry. History buffs will love the never-before-printed autobiography featured in the appendix. All in all, these jewels shine the bright light of Christ into our very different world—a world that stands in desperate need of Torrey's loving, holy boldness and evangelistic zeal.

Douglas A. Sweeney

Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

R.A.Torrey is too often overlooked— and I'm thankful for How God Used R.A. Torrey. He preached an unchanged gospel— Torrey called it the "old gospel message." Yet, Torrey was willing to use changing methods— even is his own life, from big-room meeting, to personal discipleship, to founding what today is a globally-known university. A century later, this book will help you learn more of the essential Torrey! 

Ed Stetzer,

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