Chapter 19 - Mr. Moody as an Evangelist

Table of Contents

Mr. Moody Goes to Kansas City - The Great Convention Hall - Inspiring Opening Services - The Beginning of the End - Mr. Moody Breaks Down - Back to Northfleld.

In the ancient Church there were men whose special call and labors were to save her decaying life from extinction, and reinforce it with fresh spiritual power. If time permitted, the names of patriarchs and prophets in the Old Testament might be mentioned, and the names of New Testament apostles might be spoken, for all of these were evangelists in the truest sense of the word. The word "evangelist" means "the bringer of good tidings." This being true, D. L. Moody was an evangelist in the truest sense of the word. The office, being of divine appointment is distinct from that of the pastor, the teacher, and the prophet, and as a rule in all the history of the Church has been given to those who have no stated pastoral charge, but have traveled from place to place as they had opportunity to work.


Among all the men whom the world has ever known as evangelists D. L. Moody takes no secondary place. One has but to study the history of the Church to learn the value of religious awakenings in general, and he who states that their effect upon the Church is not helpful makes a statement which cannot be supported by the facts. I once heard Mr. Moody say that when some one in the City of Boston had criticized the meetings he had held, he determined that he would go back to the city and call for all those who had been converted in his meetings to be present at a service which he would announce. The great building was filled to over, flowing and at least ten years after his services had closed he had the joy of hearing literally thousands give testimony to the fact that he had led them to Christ.

A little before the middle of the eighteenth century began what may be called the First Era of Revivals in this country, part of a religious movement that affected and moulded in a most remarkable manner the entire English-speaking world for three-quarters of a century.

The leaders of this movement in England were Whitefield and the Wesleys. The leader in America was Jonathan Edwards.


"The second Era of Revivals in this country dates from about 1797 Among the honored leaders in the earlier phase of the movement were Dr. Edward Dorr Griffin and President Dwight, associated with such men as the elder Mills. In its later phase, in what may be called the supplement to the Revival of 1797, the revivalists Nettleton and Finney were prominent."

It is an interesting fact in revivals that they frequently succeed some great calamity. It was so with the wonderful work of grace known as The Revival of 1859. The churches, to an alarming extent, were characterized by indifference and conformity to the world. Speculation was running rife, and men were entering recklessly in the race for riches. As a natural result, frauds and failures were very common, and in a day the most fanciful dreams would perish and millionaires would become paupers.

But God was working in it all, and as a direct result there was a call sent forth to the Christians of the Nation for united prayer, and the result was the mighty awakening.

Its history can never be known perfectly. It is written in Heaven, and when we stand there we shall know the full story.

But no history of revivals in this generation would be complete without due consideration being given to the man whose name is a household word, and who has been a blessing to Christians throughout the world, Mr. Dwight L. Moody.

Mr. Moody may be regarded as being, in his career and work, the representative of lay activity in the work of evangelization especially of the Young Men's Christian Association as embodying and organizing this activity. That association had largely to do with opening the way for him into the various churches and communities in the early stages of his work, and with awakening and sustaining enthusiasm in his various evangelistic enterprises


It would be difficult to imagine men more unlike than these representative evangelists. Jonathan Edwards was a mighty logician, and his great theme was The sovereignty of Gods Grace in the Salvation of Sinners.

His sermons stirred the souls of men to their very depths, and sometimes resulted in remarkable outward manifestations of feeling, as when, during the preaching at Enfield, of the sermon entitled 'Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,' the audience rose up in agony to cry out for mercy.

George Whitefield was an orator of great power. Indeed, many of those who heard Whitefield regarded him as the most eloquent of men, and the traditions of the remarkable effects produced, not only by his sermons but by the very tones of his voice, are still handed down.

Dr. Asahel Nettleton was very different from either of the two just mentioned. The following general estimate of his life has been given by some one:

Dr. Nettleton's life was marvelously useful and helpful. I never heard the opinion expressed that he was either a great or a very learned man; but I never heard those who knew him intimately question his goodness. He was a most godly man, serious, circumspect, discreet, and gifted with rare discrimination, enabling him to know and read men, and greatly aiding him to adapt himself and his instructions to men in their various moods, with their different peculiarities, prejudices, conditions, and prepossessions. He had power to prevail with God and man. His rare success is not to be attributed to his greatness, nor to his native sagacity, nor to the happy combination of gifts constitutional or natural, nor to everything combined in him, so much as to his holiness. He walked with God, knew and trusted God. He had a mighty faith. He found out how much God loved men, and he was brought into sympathy with God for the salvation of men. His perception of the guilt and doom of sinners was intense and absorbed him. He was a man whose religious development would lead him to cry out while prostrated on the cold ground at the midnight hour, "Give me souls or I die!"


Charles G. Finney was still another type of man, but few men have been more mightily used of God than he. Sometimes he could proceed no farther in the service than the reading of his text when the power of God would fall upon his audience and scores of people would profess Conversion.

But with all their greatness none of them outshine Dwight L. Moody, who stands out among all men as God's chosen instrument to show what one consecrated layman may accomplish when filled with the Holy Ghost.

He was mightily moved when Henry Varley, the English evangelist, said to him as they were visiting at a friend's house together in England some years ago: "It remains for the world to see what the Lord can do with a man wholly consecrated to Christ." Mr. Moody soon returned to America, but those words clung to him with such power that he was induced to return to England and commence that wonderful series of labors in Scotland and England. Mr. Moody said to Henry Varley on returning to England, " Those were the words of the Lord through your lips to my soul."

Strangers sometimes thought him difficult to approach, and he was, if you were trying to seek him out to say flattering words to him; but no man in all the world was more approachable than he when he knew that you had an unselfish desire with him to extend the bounds of the Kingdom of God.


Mr. Moody was especially adapted to his work, first, because he was pre-eminently practical in this practical age. He was most direct in his speech; every one knew exactly what he meant; there was no mistake in his utterance. His energy was literally boundless; day and night and night and day he toiled, never seeming to be weary. His earnestness and enthusiasm were contagious and wherever he found an audience dull and lifeless he had only to speak to them a few minutes until they were ready to do anything that he might command. He preached to larger crowds than any man in his generation, and yet it was ever his object and aim to reach the individual rather than the people in a mass. He was a born organizer, and in this century which has been specially distinguished for its progress in organization he took high rank. He was the world's greatest evangelist because with all these qualities he knew men through and through, and he was able to move them at his own will.

A distinguished southern Presbyterian minister writes me the following, which illustrates my thought.

"I first knew Mr. Moody in Louisville, Kentucky during a great campaign that he was conducting there. I first had some conversation with him in regard to some work which we were setting on foot at the time. I found him a most sympathetic listener, and wonderfully helpful, but the moment any allusion was made to his own work, and what great things it was doing for Louisville he instantly shifted the conversation.


"After the work had been in progress for some days, and the great Tabernacle on Broadway had been crowded from day to day, and at every meeting, an incident occurred which troubled me greatly, and which I did not fully understand until many months later. The after-meeting was held one morning in the Warren Memorial Church. At the conclusion of the service a great many workers in the meeting tarried for a moment of conference. A gentleman approached Mr. Moody, 'See this group of ladies on the right of the platform, they are among our prominent women of the City, and supports of our movement, both with their means and their personal work. They have not yet had the pleasure of shaking hands with you, and they have tarried for this purpose.' 'Where are they?' asked Mr. Moody. The gentleman pointed them out, saying, 'I will tell them you will see them in a few moments.' And in a little while I saw Mr. Moody reach under the pulpit stand for his little felt hat, go out a back door, and taking a cab, drive to his hotel.

"The ladies waited for some time, and finally left with the greatest feeling of indignation, and many, of them, declaring that they would not again be seen in the meetings, and work with a man who could be so rude. I confessed I was puzzled myself, and did not know what explanation could possibly be offered for the strange action.

"Some year or so after this I was in Chicago with him on the platform. Again a woman came to the foot of the stair, and said she wished to see Mr. Moody. 'He was used of God for the salvation of my husband, I want to shake hands with him, and tell him how grateful I feel toward him.' I said, 'Why certainly, wait and I will see that you have the privilege of seeing him,' when finally I called his attention to her, and when she had given him her reason for wishing to shake hands with him, without one word he turned and left her. Again, I thought, here is a type of the same thing we saw in Louisville. I comforted the poor woman as best I could.


"A few days later in his conference with young men, he spoke of how we should guard against flattery, and how many strange things we had to do, to prevent the devil's getting a hold upon us. After this conversation I told him of the injustice I had done him in my mind, in the incidents above alluded to. His explanation was very brief, but equally satisfactory and to the point. 'If I had shaken hands with those women, I wouldn't have been half through before the devil would have made me believe that I was some great man, and from that time I would have to do as he bid.

"I was present with him in a meeting for a month after this time, and studied him in the light of this explanation, and no one thing has ever helped me more to explain his closeness to God, and his humility of Spirit than the facts alluded to."

His messages had no uncertain sound, concerning the Gospel. He believed that men were lost without Christ. He told the story of the mother who came into the Eye Infirmary in Chicago and said: "Doctor, there is something wrong with my baby's eyes." He described how the doctor took the child in his arms and carried it to the window, looked at the eyes only a moment, then, shaking his head, gave the child back again to its mother. "Well, Doctor, what is it?" she said. "Poor woman" he replied, "your baby is going blind; in three months' time he will be stone blind, and no power on earth can ever make him see." Mr. Moody told how the mother held the baby close against her heart and then fell on the floor with a shriek, crying out, "My God! My baby blind! My baby blind! "


I can see his face now as he said, the tears rolling down his cheeks: "Would to God, we might all be as much moved as that when we know that our friends are spiritually blind as well as lost!" Because he believed this, he preached as he did, and it was this spirit that literally drove him to Kansas City to preach his last sermon, and then turn his face home to die. He believed in instantaneous conversion; he had no patience at all with the man who thought he must grow better to be saved. He once said:

"When Mr. Sankey and myself were in one place in Europe, a man preached a sermon against the pernicious doctrines that we were going to preach, one of which was sudden conversion. He said conversion was a matter of time and growth. Do you know what I do when any man preaches against the doctrines I preach? I go to the Bible and find out what it says, and if I am right I give them more of the same kind. I preached more on sudden conversion in that town than in any town I was in, in my life. I would like to know how long it took the Lord to convert Zaccheus? How long did it take the Lord to convert that woman whom He met at the well of Sychar? How long to convert that adulterous woman in the temple, who was caught in the very act of adultery? How long to convert that woman who anointed His feet and wiped them with the hairs of her head? Didn't she go with the Word of God ringing in her ears, 'Go in peace?'"

He was a master in the conduct of evangelistic meetings. I well remember, during the recent Armenian massacres, some one interrupted him in one of his services, saying, "Mr. Moody, I want to ask permission to present a petition, and to ask the people to sign it. This petition is to be sent to the President of the United States, asking him to take some action which may help to stop this dreadful slaughter of innocent people."

The man who made the request, was of considerable prominence, and many a leader would have yielded to his entreaty.


But Mr. Moody was always true to his convictions, and said, "My friend, I have a better plan than yours. I always believe in approaching any difficulty by the way of the throne of God. Will some one lead us in prayer?" It is sufficient to say that there was no petition presented, and everybody was satisfied, that his was the better way.

He was at his best in the Inquiry Meeting. He knew just what Scripture to use, and it was a rare privilege to be anywhere near him when he talked with one who wanted to be a Christian.

He was never easily discouraged; circumstances that would greatly hinder others, had no effect upon him, except to lead him closer to Christ. Mr. William Phillips Hall, the Business Men's Evangelist, relates the following:

In Mr. Moody's early evangelistic career, he began a series of meetings in a church across the sea. There was nothing remarkable about the first service except that it was formal and cold. In the evening the attendance had increased, and when the invitation was given to those to stand, who desired to express an interest in their souls' salvation, so many stood that the evangelist feared they had not understood his invitation, so he gave it again more plainly, only to have a larger number stand. And when the after-meeting was called, there was a most remarkable manifestation of the power of God, and it was the beginning of a great and memorable work of grace.


One of the members of that church went home to tell an invalid member of the family, that two Americans, by the names of Moody and Sankey, had conducted services in the church that day. The invalid burst into tears, and reaching for her purse took out a piece of an English newspaper, which contained the large announcement that Dwight L. Moody and Ira D. Sankey were being greatly used of God in Chicago. So she had read it and had cut it out of the paper, and from that moment began to pray that God would send those two men to her church.

I have heard Mr. Moody relate the incident myself and then say:

"I believe when the rewards are given out in Heaven, that that invalid woman will share with us in the glory and honor of that grand campaign."

No one this side of Heaven can ever estimate the number of people he won to Christ in his evangelistic services. It has been estimated that he preached to millions. It is safe to say that he must, under the power of God, have led hundreds of thousands to a decision.

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