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Ernest Reisinger Goes to ‘the Land of the Living’

Category Articles
Date July 3, 2004

Iain H. Murray

Last week I had an e-mail from this dear friend in which he quoted the words of an old preacher, ‘I am yet in the land of the dying, but am bound for the land of the living.’ At 7:30 AM on Monday morning, May 31, Ernest Reisinger, at the age of 84, was across the river and home in that brighter land. For many of God’s people he will ever have a place in our affections and memories.

Over the past 50 years Ernie was a leading figure in the revival of Reformation theology and Puritan literature. He held a unique place in assisting the reform of churches, the support of theological seminaries, the formation of conferences, and the teaching and giving of books to young pastors. Through his effective witness and warm personal guidance Mr. Reisinger has been a spiritual father to thousands.

Born in 1919 at Carlisle, Pennsylvania, USA, he was converted prior to serving in the US Navy during the Second World War. Mr. Reisinger then became a successful businessman in his hometown. It was during the 1950s that he came to a knowledge of ‘the doctrines of grace through his study of Christian literature. He then felt, as John Bunyan once wrote, ‘I had grown from a babe into a man.

Spiritual concerns came to take more and more of Ernie’s time. After his ordination in 1971, in which Dr. Cornelius Van Til participated, he served as pastor to churches in Islamorada and North Pompano in Florida, USA. These were Southern Baptist churches, and, by the 1980s he was playing a leading role in working for the recovery of the doctrines of grace, in that denomination. He demonstrated that this was a recovery, not an introduction, by directing the reprinting of James Boyce’s Abstract of Theology. To the last he remained the Associate Editor of The Founders ‘journal: Committed to Historic Southern Baptist Principles. Nonetheless his instincts always remained genuinely ‘catholic’, and few men can have been welcomed to the pulpits of so many denominations.

My personal friendship with Ernie began in 1966 when, in December of that year, I took him to Spurgeon’s birthplace in East Anglia. While I think he enjoyed the scenes, he was patently much more concerned with the gospel in the present day. Sometime later he wrote these words to me: ‘We are vitally interested in the outreach of the great work of Banner – not only in this country but in the world.’ That led, the following year, to a close link between Banner and the United States with far-reaching consequences. Mr. Reisinger became the first US trustee of the Banner of Truth Trust, and, knowing him best in that connexion, I do not hesitate to say that no one was more committed to the provision and circulation of good literature than he was. With all his heart he wrote, ‘The Gospel is indeed our trust – bountiful blessings inherited through God’s grace. As trustee of this estate, we are obligated to ensure its preservation for future generations.’ Several key titles republished by Banner were done at his suggestion. He wrote helpfully himself: What Shall We Think of ‘The Carnal Christian?’ (Banner of Truth: Edinburgh, 1978); Todays’ Evangelism (Craig Press, Phillipsburg, 1982); The Law and the Gospel (P &R, Phillipsburg, 1987), etc. In addition he had a much valued behind-the-scenes ministry in the encouragement of other authors, including James I. Packer, Arnold Dallimore, Walter Chantry, Sinclair Ferguson, David Calhoun, and Tom Ascol. We thank the God who made Ernest Reisinger what he was that such meetings are not past, and we know that what he lived and prayed for will not depart with his passing. A service led by Dr. Tom Ascol was held in Ernie’s home church at Cape Coral, Florida, on June 3. The funeral was held on June 8 at Grace Baptist, the church he did so much to establish, at Carlisle, Pennsylvania. David Campbell, Senior Pastor of the church, presided, Walt Chantry and Tom Ascol assisted. Our prayerful sympathy is with Mrs. Jane Reisinger, who was Ernie’s devoted help-meet, and with their entire family.

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