Dwight Lyman Moody the Greatest Evangelist

Dwight Lyman Moody was born February 5, 1837, in Northfield, Massachusetts, USA, to solid New England Puritan Stock. He was the sixth of nine children. For 200 years seven generations of his ancestors had lived in the Connecticut Valley, and it was to his hometown of Northfield that Moody loved to return and there he hosted much of his teaching, including the successful Northfield Conferences.

His father died when he was but 4 years of age, leaving the mother destitute. Creditors even took the firewood, so the children stayed in bed until school time, in order to stay warm. From age 13 there was to be no more schooling. Moody’s mother demanded that her children attend church, keen to see them find salvation. Moody had the fear of God and wanted to please Him, although he did not know how to find salvation in Christ.

In the back room of his uncle’s shoe store in Boston 16 year-old Moody was led to Christ by Edward Kimball, his Sunday-School teacher. When Kimball presented Moody with the love of Christ the young man was keen to respond and the transformation was immediate. Moody recounts of the transformation, “Before my conversion I worked towards the Cross, but since then I have worked from the Cross; then I worked to be saved; now I work because I am saved.”

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Moody was illiterate, unable to read or write at the age of 17. But he became a dedicated student and gained much from his attention to life and to lessons. His zeal for the Lord made little impression on his church, which saw theological knowledge and correct doctrine as important for salvation. A year after his conversion Moody was denied church membership, since he was “not sufficiently instructed in Christian doctrine”.

The following year found him in Chicago, working with the Plymouth Congregational Church where he became a fervent soul-winner. He rented a pew and filled it each Sunday. Then he rented more, until each week he filled four pews.

When Charles Finney’s great awakening reached Chicago Moody was more than ready for action. At the same time his employment was also blessed, as he became such a successful shoe salesman that he was promoted to commercial traveller.

His next venture was to join a Sunday School which had more teachers than students. He set out to find his own pupils and quickly grew a huge gathering. He followed that with a second Sunday School project which outgrew its hall, so it kept expanding. Then, by reaching out to the parents of the students, he was able to build up a huge audience which thrilled to his excellent and powerful preaching. From the base of 1,500 students Moody was able to build his first church.

However, despite the popularity of his preaching, Moody had his critics among the pedantic folk who were offended by his poor grammar and illiterate modes of speech.

To one man who told him he had bad grammar, Moody replied, “I know I make mistakes and I lack many things, but I’m doing the best I can with what I’ve got.” He then gave the man a searching gaze and asked, “Look, here, friend, you’ve got grammar enough — what are you doing with it for the Master?”

Moody gave up his successful employment to work for the Lord full time. He became very active and successful with the YMCA work – when the “C” meant “Christian” in those days – the building up his remarkable Sunday-School … ministering in the Civil War to soldiers of both sides … and with his association with Ira D. Sankey.

In 1867 Moody went to Britain to hear Spurgeon preach, meet George Mueller and well known evangelist, Henry Varley. At a public park in Dublin Varley told Moody, “The world has yet to see what God will do with and for and through and in and by the man who is fully consecrated to Him.” Moody was struck by the fact that the “man” Varley described did not have to be great, learned or smart, but just ‘a man’. Moody decided to be that man.

Moody met Sankey through the YMCA in 1870 and invited Sankey to sing for some open air meetings. Sankey soon gave up his own work and together Moody and Sankey became the world’s best-known evangelistic team on both sides of the Atlantic.

This semi-literate preacher founded the Chicago Bible Institute (today known as the Moody Bible Institute) – a mighty publishing house that is still to the forefront in issuing evangelical literature – and Bible conferences in his hometown. World famous speakers were invited to speak (like Campbell Morgan) and, alas, some not so evangelical (like Henry Drummond).

Moody’s life and his famous Northfield Conferences associate him with many great names of Christian ministry. One that bears special mention is the famous English boy preacher, Henry Moorehouse, who preached on the love of God so constantly and with such compelling words, that Moody’s own preaching and ministry were greatly deepened by the impact.

It is interesting to note that the salvation message of Moody’s Sunday School teacher, Edward Kimball, was also centred on the love of God. This one message seems to be very significant in impacting Moody’s life and ministry.

In 1871 Moody met two ladies in his congregation who prayed earnestly that he would be filled with the Spirit. This created a great hunger in him which he carried during the great Chicago Fire tragedy. While in New York raising funds for those in need he experienced a touch from God which greatly increased his effectiveness. The same messages now brought much greater results. Of that experience Moody said, “I can only say that God revealed Himself to me, and I had such an experience of His love that I had to ask Him to stay His hand.”

Moody and Sankey drew the largest crowds ever during their first British tour. From then on, both in England and the USA, they spoke to and led to Christ multiplied thousands. On at least one occasion 30,000 people stood outside a meeting hall, because there was no room for them inside.

Moody died on 22 December, 1899. “If this is death, there is no valley …” his friends heard him say. “This is glorious, I have been within the gates, and I saw the children. Earth is receding; Heaven approaching. God is calling me! Hallelujah!”

It has been estimated that before he died – aged 62 – “one million people were converted to Jesus Christ” as the result of his ministry (Hall of Fame, by E. Towns, page 133).

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This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: www.donaldprout.com

Wilson Carlile Founds the Church Army

This is the day that … Wilson Carlile died, in 1942.

Carlile was born in Brixton, London on 14 January, 1847. His favourite toy as a child, he tells us, was Joey Billy, a wooden doll that he played with until “arms and legs and hair had been lost.” But, adds Carlile, “Joey Billy taught me to love poor, disreputable, broken things.”

He suffered from a spinal weakness all his life, which hampered his education. He entered his grandfather’s business at the age of thirteen but soon moved on and learnt fluent French, which he used to good advantage in France trading in silk. He later learned German and Italian to enhance his business, but was ruined in a slump in 1873.

After a serious illness, he began to take his religion more seriously. He was converted by reading Mackey’s Grace and Truth, given to him by a Plymouth Brethren aunt and was confirmed in the Church of England.

Speaking of his conversion he says, “I have seen the crucified and risen Lord as truly as if He had made Himself visible to my bodily sight. That is for me the conclusive evidence of His existence. He touched my heart, and old desires and hopes left it. In their place came the new thought that I might serve Him and His poor and suffering brethren.”

He acted as organist to Ira D Sankey, during the Moody and Sankey missions and in 1881 was ordained priest, serving his curacy at St Mary Abbots in Kensington, together with a dozen other curates. The lack of contact between the Church and the working classes was a cause of real concern to him and he began outdoor preaching. In 1882, he resigned his curacy and founded the Church Army, four years after the foundation of the Salvation Army.

He was known as “the archbishop of the gutter”!

He continued to take part in the Church Army administration until a few weeks before his death.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.

Ira David Sankey Singing Revivalist

This is the day that … Ira David Sankey was born in Pennsylvania, in 1840. His father was a prominent man, a state senator, banker and editor. He was under appointment by Abraham Lincoln to collect internal revenue.

Young David displayed a fondness for music and developed an excellent singing voice.

In his early years he attended the Methodist Episcopal Church, became Sunday-School superintendent, led the YMCA and led the choir.

During the Civil War he was one of the first to enlist with the Union Army.

Three years later, on 9 September, 1863, Sankey married a member of his choir, Fanny Edwards. “She has been a blessing and a helpmate to me throughout my life and in all my work,” he wrote in his autobiography (page 17).

Sankey was in constant demand as a singer for all kinds of religious gatherings.

In 1870 he met D.L. Moody at a 6.00 a.m. YMCA prayer meeting, and after hearing him sing, Moody challenged him to become his partner in an evangelistic ministry. Before long Sankey was leading the singing and contributing some gospel solos at Moody’s meetings in Chicago.

Sankey and Moody travelled to the UK in June 1873, and there Sankey’s singing gave him an international reputation. His wonderful compass of voice, clear enunciation and evident sincerity made a deep impression throughout Great Britain, so much so that before he returned to America the names of “Moody and Sankey” had become household words throughout Europe. (wholesomewords.org)

Many converts testified to the impact made by Sankey’s singing as well as the preaching of the evangelist.

Sankey’s Hymn Book is reputed to have sold 80 million copies in the first 50 years (1873-1923).

Among the well-known tunes Sankey composed are those to which we sing these words: There were ninety and nine…; Simply trusting every day…; Encamped along the hills of light…; The Lord’s our Rock, in Him we hide…; Under His wings…; Oh! Safe to the Rock that is higher than I…

On 13 August, 1908, Sankey joined the Heavenly choir.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.

Ira D Sankey – hymn writer

This is the day that … a weekly newspaper, The Christian Age, dated 13 May, 1874, printed a poem, which fell into the hands of Mr Ira D. Sankey.

With his friend, D.L. Moody, beside him, the two American evangelists sat in a railway carriage travelling towards Edinburgh. Moody had just completed the Glasgow campaign.

In that newspaper Sankey found a poem and read it to Moody, “only to discover that he had not heard a word, so absorbed was he in a letter.” However, Sankey kept the poem – “I cut it out and placed it in my musical scrap-book.”

At the second meeting of the Edinburgh campaign Moody preached on “The Good Shepherd”, and whilst the chairman (Dr Bonar) made some closing remarks, Moody asked Sankey to sing something appropriate to close the meeting. Sankey tells us in his autobiography that singing the 23rd Psalm crossed his mind, but … let Sankey tell the story … “At that moment I seemed to hear a voice saying: ‘Sing the hymn you found on the train.’ But I thought this impossible, as no music had ever been written for it! Nevertheless the inner conviction persisted.

“Placing the little newspaper slip on the organ in front of me, I lifted my heart in prayer, asking God to help me … I struck the chord of A flat and began to sing. Note by note the tune was given which has not been changed from that day to this” (pages 306-307). After the service Moody asked his friend, “… where did you get that hymn?” to which Sankey replied: “Mr Moody, that’s the hymn I read to you yesterday on the train, which you did not even hear…”

The hymn was written by Elizabeth Clephane (who also penned Beneath the Cross of Jesus).

And the hymn? …
There were ninety and nine that safely lay
in the shelter of the fold,
But one was out on the hills away,
Far off from the gates of gold.
Away on the mountains wild and bare,
Away from the tender Shepherd’s care.

But none of the ransomed ever knew
how deep were the waters crossed;
Nor how dark was the night that the Lord passed through
’ere He found His sheep that was lost.
Out in the desert He heard its cry –
Sick and helpless, and ready to die.
(From My Life Story and the Story of the Gospel Hymns, by I.D. Sankey, page 304).