GOD'S ERRAND BOY
A brief history of the life of Dr. John A. Hubbard
[c. 1876 - 1962]
(by Electa Zehr Oltrogge)

Young John Hubbard was doing quite well. True, he had a long way to go before reaching his goal; but he owned a real cornet, was taking lessons, and was playing "triple-tongue" numbers with ability. Gone were the little-boy days when all he had was a paper horn, a lusty voice, and a good imagination.

It was the summer of 1895. John was 19, and working as a bill clerk in one of Chicago's leading music stores; also he was playing with a theater orchestra at night. His childhood dream of brilliant success as a cornettist was showing signs of possible fulfillment. Then came a day in early September when a young man in the office approached him.

"John, would you be interested in playing in a brass quartet? A man who's holding some kind of religious meetings out on West Chicago Avenue wants help with the music. I have two other fellows lined up. Will you join us?" John's answer was yes. Though he didn't realize it then, John Hubbard was being sought out by the One who loved him and bought him.

The following weeks brought John strange and new experiences. Two "old-fashioned Methodists," ministering to the needy folk in West Chicago, moved from tent to building as the crowds increased and the weather changed. But every night the boys in the brass quartet heard the Gospel and the heart of one of the cornettists was stirred. Yes, I need this Savior! I should yield to Him. But what about my music -- my career?

After five weeks of deep conviction and soul-debate, John yielded. A patient personal worker, dealing with him on two successive nights, brought him face to face with the Lord Jesus and His Word; he was born again. By God's grace, he even gave a testimony. To him this seemed a minor miracle, for public speaking just wasn't his province. His only previous attempt had occurred during a program in the fourth grade when, in the midst of "Little Jack Horner," he fled to his seat in tears--frozen at the sight of an audience.

Maintaining a stand for the Lord was not easy. but in the strength of his Savior, to Whom as his Lord he had wholly yielded, he stood. First, he immediately abandoned his ambition to become a "top-notch" cornettist. The news brought gloom to the Hubbard household (father, mother, a sister and 4 brothers) where Bob Ingersol was admired, Christ ignored, and John's cornet revered. Next he lost his job. Choosing to "obey God rather than men," he refused to falsify figures on certain bills, was finally called to the head office and "fired on the spot".

At this crucial moment God definitely lead. Even before he left the music store, John decided to go directly to the Y.M.C.A. where special meetings were in progress. Upon arrival he met a consecrated young Moody Bible Institute student who encouraged him and gave him a copy of "How to Bring Men to Christ" by R.A. Torrey then dean of M.B.I. This was a vital contact. Much Bible study, and the reading of Torrey's book, continued for several months; then in March of 1896 -- having obtained part-time employment -- he enrolled at M.B.I. The gloom at home took on a funeral hue. Now he'd be "nothing but a poor preacher."

For John, however, the atmosphere was fresh with new life. He remained at Moody for a year, the three summer months being spent in travel through Illinois with the school's first "Gospel Wagon". Tract distribution, personal work, and John's consecrated cornet were used of the Lord.

In a class at Moody his heart was impressed with what might be called his "life verse." Discussing Hebrews 12:1-2 Dr. William R. Newell said "'Looking unto Jesus' is the conquering attitude of the soul." And John prayed, "Lord, let this ever be my soul's attitude." Thousands of his students and friends can testify that this attitude has characterized his entire life.

From Moody he went to Mt. Hermon for 3 years' study. "Mt. Hermon," for men, and "Northfield," for women, were schools established in Massachusetts by D.L. Moody. During the summer conferences at Northfield, John heard many "giants of the faith"--F.B. Meyer, G.C. Morgan, A.T. Pierson, C.I. Scofield, and "Moody and Sankey," to name only a few. As a member of the Mt. Hermon male quartet, and as a cornettist he had many opportunities for service. And a book presented to him, bearing the legend "To John A. Hubbard for excellence in Bible study, from D.L. Moody," speaks for his scholarship. In 1899 the quartet sang at Mr. Moody's funeral.

How can John Hubbard's years of ministry be described? A book could be written. Asked by Lewis Sperry Chafer (an obscure evangelist at that time and later the founder of Dallas Theological Seminary) to travel with him as music minister he accepted. Within 3 months Chafer took ill. Then in the providence of God speaking arrangements unexpectedly opened up for John; from this time on the preaching ministry of the "poor preacher" grew. In recalling these experiences Dr. Hubbard says: "Being thrust into a position where it was 'sink of swim' seemingly became a pattern for my life. But the Lord did the thrusting and always enabled me to swim."

Three pastorates, a year of study at Princeton Theological Seminary, and 5 years of teaching filled the early years (1900-1912). In 1901 he was married to Miss Frances Betts a student from Northfield, who became a true life partner. In the next 12 years 3 sons and a daughter were born: Louis, Robert, Gordon, and Helen.

A call in 1903 to become principal of the Boydton Institute in Virginia a work for colored students marked his start as a teacher. He returned to pastoral work in 1907, but in 1912 teaching became his permanent field. That year he went to the Toccoa Falls Institute in Georgia and in 1915, to the Martha Berry School Rome, Georgia. Then in 1920 Dr. R.A. Torrey (dean at M.B.I. when John had attended there, but now head of the Bible Institute of Los Angeles) asked him to become dean of men at "Biola." He consented.

From 1920 to 1946, John Hubbard served the Lord at Biola, first as dean of men with a limited teaching ministry, and after 9 years as an instructor with a full teaching schedule. It was during this period that he was honored by Dallas Theological Seminary when, in 1931, the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity was conferred upon him, Dr. Lewis Sperry Shafer officiating. The initials "J.A.H." became well known to students, and were remembered with loving gratitude by alumni serving in distant fields. R.G. LeTourneau, Irving Moon, H.H. Foucar, E.C. Eymann, (even Charles Fuller on one occasion) and hundreds of others sat in his classes. But every student gained two chief impressions: (1) The authority of the Word of God -- "What does it say" (2) The imperative of Missions -- "Lift up your eyes and look on the fields." Though his desire to serve on the foreign field was not realized, many missionaries are there today because of his prayers and efforts. He was a charter member of the Wycliffe Bible Translators board, and has served in one capacity or another on the boards of the Africa Inland, Sudan Interior, and Central American missions. His daughter and her husband, Rev. Lawrence Simpson, who is director of C.A.M.'s Bible Institute in Puebla, Mexico, have been with that Mission for 24 years. (In 1959, J.A.H. spent 3 months on the Puebla field -- ministering to missionaries as well as students.)

In 1957, Dr. Hubbard came to the Arizona Bible Institute in Phoenix. The school was young, small, and poorly equipped. His living quarters were meager. But the classes were rich with blessings, and A.B.I. prospered under the good hand of God. Though his wife and two of his sons went to be with the Lord he stayed at his post. Teachers, students and alumni were deeply thankful for his ministry. To see him walking briskly across the campus reminds one of Moses, whose eye was bright and whose strength failed not even in old age (Deut. 23:7). And to sit in his classes one is conscious of Acts 12:24 being fulfilled even today.

When one asks Dr. Hubbard about his ministry he says: "Years ago I noted that in Jeremiah 1:7 the Lord says, ' . . . on whatsoever errand I shall send thee, thou shalt go.' (R.V. margin.) I saw that Jeremiah was really God's errand boy. I knew what that meant, for I had been an errand boy in Chicago at the age of 16. He must be prompt, obedient. and on hand to deliver the message when the 'boss' speaks. It became my desire and purpose to be counted a faithful errand boy for the Lord." This Dr. Hubbard is, to the benefit of thousands and to the glory of God.


[I think the above probably was written for when "on October 6, 1961, the Hubbard Memorial Library was dedicated to the work of our Lord Jesus Christ in testimony to the faithful service of Dr. John A. Hubbard." By 1989 A.B.I., subsequently known as Arizona Bible College had moved to another location and so the Hubbard Memorial Library, sadly, had been abandoned.]

Also see a March 1956 article written by Dr. Hubbard: He Is Not Here