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).

Find hundreds of succinct Church History posts at: http://chrisfieldblog.com/topics/ministry/church-history

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

Adoniram Judson Gordon the Baptist Fundamentalist

Adoniram Judson Gordon died on February 2, 1895, at the age of 58, having been born in New Hampshire on April 13, 1836. He was a leader of early Baptist fundamentalism.

Gordon’s parents were devout Calvinist Christians. His father was named after John Calvin and Gordon was named after the famous American Baptist missionary to Burma. The family’s devotion prompted their son, at the age of 15 to seek salvation for his soul. A year later he told his church that he desired to become a minister.

Entering Brown University in 1856 and Newton Theological Seminary in 1860, he pursued his calling and on graduating became pastor at Jamaica Plain, near Boston. He enjoyed six successful years there before becoming pastor of the Clarendon Street Baptist Church in Boston, where he remained for 25 years and from which pulpit he became a famous preacher.

Gordon was challenged by an unbelieving community and an unmotivated congregation. He met those challenges with the simple truth of the gospel, ultimately transforming his church into a spiritual powerhouse.

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Dr Gordon, as he was known, lived a saintly life and wrote much about the Spirit-filled life.

Gordon spoke at the Niagara Bible Conference of Niagara-on-the-Lake in Ontario virtually every year from 1877 until his death in 1895, and he was D L Moody’s right-hand man at the Northfield Conventions, even being privileged to host the event in 1892 while Moody was in Europe. Gordon was a regular speaker at Northfield.

Gordon’s presence in these conferences is significant, as very few Baptists were part of the fundamentalist Convention movement in the late nineteenth century. Most of the speakers and organisers were Presbyterian and Congregationalist.

Gordon’s ministry embraced a strong missionary emphasis, he wrote prolifically on the Second Coming of Christ, and he advocated ‘faith healing’. He was personal friend to A. B. Simpson, who had a faith healing ministry.

He believed in the premillennial return of Christ and preached on this, among other things, in the convention meetings. He penned The Ministry of Women in 1894, defending women’s right to preach.

One book that is regarded as possibly his finest work, Ministry of the Spirit, defines the three aspects of the Spirit’s work as: sealing; filling; and anointing.

This contemporary fundamentalist also put pen to paper to compose the melody of one of Christendom’s loveliest hymns, the tune Gordon, which is used to William Featherston’s words, My Jesus, I love Thee, I know Thou art mine.

On the morning of February 2, 1895, Dr. Gordon, with “victory” as the last clearly audible word on his lips, fell asleep in Jesus.

Gordon’s life and his generation represented the shift in America from the doctrinal preoccupation of the Calvinists, to the practical missiology that dominated American evangelicalism since then. His emphasis was on practical theology and effective evangelistic ministry, saying, “We believe we ought to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered unto the saints, but in doing this we should seek to be like the saints once delivered to the faith.”

Find hundreds of succinct Church History posts at: http://chrisfieldblog.com/topics/ministry/church-history

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

Archibald Thomas Robertson the Baptist Scholar

Archibald Thomas Robertson was born in Virginia, USA, on November 6, 1863.

At the time of his birth the American Civil War was already turning against the South, and so Robertson’s family suffered the loss of most of their fortune through the war. The Reconstruction had devastating effect on the family’s fortunes, so AT’s father, who had been a country doctor and a plantation owner, took his family to work on a small farm in Statesville, North Carolina.

Robertson was a preaching scholar, enjoying both his study and his time in the pulpit.

In the early 1900’s Robertson was a founding member of the Baptist World Congress now known as The Baptist World Alliance.

This Southern Baptist scholar is remembered especially for his Harmony of the New Testament.

Altogether he wrote 45 books, each displaying a scholarly grasp of theology.

His biographer tells us that “Dr Bob”, as he was affectionately called, “wore out a dozen Greek Testaments in his lifetime” (page 125).

In 1914 his ministry was also broadened through a series of summer Bible conferences with D.L. Moody and F.B. Meyer, introducing Robertson to thousands of pastors and layman alike.

W.R. Moody – son of the famous evangelist – invited Robertson to speak at the Northfield Conference … sharing the platform with such men as Dr R.A. Torrey and Campbell Morgan.

Concerning liberal theology with its downgrading of Scripture. “his arrows were swift and deadly” against it (Baptists and the Bible, page 303).

Nevertheless, he did accept Theistic evolution (Biography, page 181), nor would he be dogmatic concerning millennial views (page 187).

On Monday, 24 September, 1934, he was lecturing in the Southern Baptist Seminary, Kentucky, when he became ill and unable to continue, due to a stroke. He was taken home, and entered the presence of his Lord before the day was through.

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. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History, which I previously considered to be a little stuffy and of little practical value. I find in the process of updating Don’s Christian Diary that I am being constantly refreshed, illuminated or challenged by the lives of those who have gone before.