Gordon, Adoniram Judson (1836-1895)

Pastor, author, poet, hymn writer, educator, social reformer, and missions leader

Gordon, Adoniram Judson (1836-1895)

Born in New Hampton, New Hampshire, Gordon graduated from Brown University (1860) and Newton Theological Institution (1863). From 1869 to 1895 he was pastor of the Clarendon Street Baptist Church of Boston, Massachusetts, where he promoted the cause of foreign missions. On the executive committee of the American Baptist Missionary Union (ABMU) from 1871, and chair after 1888, Gordon stimulated Baptist Missions expansion. One of the most influential evangelical leaders of his era, he made an impact on missions well beyond Baptist circles through his writing and speaking. In 1884 he negotiated the ABMU takeover of the Congo River Livingstone Inland Mission, founded in 1878 by H. Gratten Guinness. In 1886 he addressed Dwight L. Moody‘s Northfield Conference when the initial 100 student volunteers launched what became the Student Volunteer Movement. At the 1888 London Centenary Conference on the Protestant Missions of the World, Gordon emerged as an international apologist for missions and toured Scotland to advance the cause. In 1889 he founded the Boston Missionary Training Institute, one of America’s first Bible schools, which graduated fifty missionaries in its initial decade and later evolved into Gordon College and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

Gordon’s mission theory, largely premillenial in emphasis, was expounded in his books, including The Ship Jesus (c. 1884) and The Holy Spirit in Missions (c. 1893), and in articles in his journal The Watchword, and in Missionary Review of the World, of which he was associate editor after 1890. Rejecting optimistic, civilizing colonialist theories popular in the imperial era of missions, Gordon separated Christianity and culture and questioned the efficacy of Western colonialism. To hasten the Second Coming of Christ, he advocated worldwide evangelization and indigenous church planting over against incremental institutional approaches. Though a loyal denominationalist, he viewed the decentralization of missions and the rise of “faith mission” as efficient ways to enlist the human and financial resources of local congregations. An outspoken advocate of women in ministry, he welcomed females and minorities to his training school and to the larger mission enterprise.

Thomas A. Askew, “Gordon, Adoniram Judson,” in Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, ed. Gerald H. Anderson (New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 1998), 251.

This article is reprinted from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, Macmillan Reference USA, copyright © 1998 Gerald H. Anderson, by permission of Macmillan Reference USA, New York, NY. All rights reserved.


Digital Texts

Gordon, Adoniram Judson. Congregational Worship. Boston: Young and Bartlett, 1874.

_____. Ecce Venit: Behold He Cometh. New York: Revell, 1889.

_____. In Christ; or The Believer’s Union with His Lord. Boston: Gould and Lincoln, 1872.

_____. Grace and Glory: Sermons for the Life that Now is and that which is to Come. Boston: Howard Gannet, 1880.

_____. The Holy Spirit in Missions: Six Lectures. New York: Revell, 1893.

_____. The Ministry of Healing, or, Miracles of Cure in All Ages. Boston: H. Gannet, 1883.

_____. The Twofold Life; or Christ’s Work for Us and Christ’s Work in Us. Boston: Howard Gannet, 1883.

Gordon, Adoniram Judson and George C. Needham. The life and labors of Charles H. Spurgeon: the faithful preacher, the devoted pastor, the noble philanthropist, the beloved college president, and the voluminous writer, author, etc., etc. Boston: D.L. Guernsey, 1885.

Gordon, Adoniram Judson and Arthur T. Pierson. How Christ Came to Church: The Pastor’s Dream: A Spiritual Autobiography. Philadelphia: American Baptist Pub. Soc., [1895].

Gordon, Ernet Barron. Adoniram Judson Gordon: A Biography with Letters and Illustrative Extracts Drawn from Unpublished or Uncollected Sermons and Addresses.


Gordon, Adoniram Judson. Christian Science Not Scriptural. [Los Angeles: Bible House, 187-?].

_____. Elements of Christian Character. Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1895.

_____. The Fiftieth Year: A Sermon Preached on the Semi-Centennial Anniversary of the Clarendon Street Baptist Church in Boston, October 21st, 1877. Boston: Printed for the Church, 1878.

_____. The First Thing in the World; Or, The Primacy of Faith. New York: Revell, [1891].

_____. God’s Tenth. [Boston]: American Baptist Missionary Union, [between 1877 and 1910].

_____. Reasons for Total Abstinence. New York: National Temperance Society and Publication House, [186-?].

_____. The Recurrence of Doctrine: An Address Delivered Before the Alumni of Newton Theological Seminar, June 10, 1885. Boston: Advent Christian Publication Society, [between 1885 and 1903].

_____. The Resurrection. East Northfield, MA: The Bookstore, [between 1916 and 1983].

_____. The Service of a Good Life: A Discourse Commemorative of the Life and Character of Hon. Richard Fletcher. Delivered by Request in the Clarendon Street Baptist Church Boston Juli 11, 1869. Boston: Gould and Lincoln, 1869.

Gordon, Adoniram Judson and A. T. Pierson, eds. The Coronation Hymnal: A Selection of Hymns and Songs. Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1894.


Carpenter, Joel. The Premillennial Second Coming: Two Early Champions. New York: Garland Pub., 1988.

Gibson, Scott M. A. J. Gordon: American Premillennialist. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2001.

Gordon, Ernet Barron. Adoniram Judson Gordon: A Biography with Letters and Illustrative Extracts Drawn from Unpublished or Uncollected Sermons and Addresses. New York: Revell, 1896.

Robert, Dana L. “Adoniram Judson Gordon.” In Mission Legacies: Biographical Studies of Leaders of the Modern Missionary Movement, edited by Gerald H. Anderson et al. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1994. Pp. 18-27.

Wilson, J. Christy, ed. Bringing Christ to All the World: Centennial Edition of Selections from the Writings of Dr. Adoniram Judson Gordon. S. Hamilton, MA: Gordon-Conwell Printing Service, 1988.

Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary Goddard Library has the Adoniram Judson Gordon papers. Their extensive collection can be searched at www.gcts.edu/library/goddard_library


“Adoniram Judson Gordon.” In Gordon, Ernest B. Adoniram Judson Gordon: A Biography. New York & London: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1984.