Adoniram Judson Gordon was born in New Hampton, New Hampshire, on April 19, 1836, and was named after the pioneer missionary, Adoniram Judson. His father was John Calvin Gordon, named after the theologian, John Calvin. From his name we know that his parents had a heart for reaching others with the gospel, and so raised their son to love God and the sharing of God’s Word.
He entered Brown University when 20 years old, and so was an “older” freshman. For his hazing, the students filled his room with smoke and ordered him to stand on a table and preach a sermon. The students did not know him well enough to expect what happened next. He mounted the table and chose as his text, “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves!” He delivered a very pointed sermon mercilessly to his tormentors. The students in great wrath rushed him like wild animals, but he immediately leaped at the ring-leader and tore his coat in half. John Hay came upon the scene and the students were driven away.
His grades were but average at the University, but he filled his days with reading a wide range of literature, developing his love of reading devotional works. This extensive reading continued into his days at the stiff but quiet Newton Theological Seminary in Boston. There his favorite courses were in New Testament exegesis. During his days there the abolition movement attracted him, stopping to hear a speech by Abraham Lincoln, but he decided against joining it as a fighter because of the huge investment his family had made for his education and preparation for the ministry.
He began to preach in small country churches, and at times at the church in his hometown. His own two grandmothers sat in the front row of their church to judge his orthodoxy. They were very stoic and rigid, and afterwards when asked their opinion, one kept silent and the other said she had heard it all before. Other people were very encouraging but consistently thought him to be in his teens and so unable to write the sermons himself! He was disheartened at the results, writing that people do not seem to appreciate the amount of toil of the brain that goes into the work and that there seemed to be little in good results from the words spoken.
He graduated from Newton Theological Seminary.
He was called to Jamaica Plain to a Baptist society to supply the pulpit there. By the end of a month, he was called to be their pastor. On June 12, 1863, at the age of 27, he was ordained by the little group and installed as pastor. Jamaica Plain was on the outskirts of Boston, with well-kept yards and affluent people. His house was on a pond, and he was soon married.
Six years later, he became pastor of a large Baptist church in Boston, the Clarendon Street Baptist Church.
Gordon edited The Service of Song for Baptist Churches, and The Vestry Hymn and Tune Book. He was editor of the monthly The Watchword, and was author of the series Quiet Talks.
He wrote a book, The Ministry of the Spirit, that had an introduction by F.B. Meyer, and was published in 1894.
He was a close friend of D. L. Moody, and assisted him a lot in his work in Boston. He also was a frequent speaker at Moody’s Northfield Conferences.
He was the founder of Gordon College.
He wrote several hymn, and among them are:
He died on February 2, 1895 in Boston from the flu at the age of 59.
A.J. Gordon, The Ministry of the Spirit (Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1894), portrait.
Earnest B. Gordon, Adoniram Judson Gordon, A Biography (Chicago: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1896).
Kenneth W. Osbeck, 101 More Hymn Stories (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Publications, 1985), p. 194.
Kenneth W. Osbeck, Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Publications, 1990), p. 56.