Introduction to The Best of D. L. Moody
In the roster of evangelists and preachers Dwight Lyman Moody (1837-1899) stands high for the impact of his ministry in the English-speaking world. A New Englander of humble origin, he lived a full life as a salesman and then as a salesman for God. He came at the end of the evangelical period of influence in America when liberalism was emerging. His ministry had the support and backing of people in both movements and the whole church was influenced and blessed through his forthright preaching. Moody moved freely in both America and in Great Britain among men of different theological views and united them in the work of evangelism. Out of his efforts and influence many united movements were stimulated to practical action. The Y.M.C.A., the American Sunday School Union, the American Tract Society, the American Bible Society, Moody Tract and Colportage Association, the Moody Memorial Church, Chicago; The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago; the Northfield and the Mount Hermon Schools for Boys and Girls, Mount Hermon, Massachusetts, are among many in the United States. In Great Britain came several large mission agencies such as the Tent Hall, Glasgow; Carrubbers Close Mission, Edinburgh; and the Bible Training Institute, Glasgow. Movements of unity and united action were areas in which he worked with Christians of all backgrounds in seeking to reach the lost of his generation.
In religious conviction and theological background, Moody, from his conversion and subsequent deepened spiritual experience by the Holy Spirit's indwelling, was an avowed evangelical. In his closing years he was associated with those who were aligning in the more fundamentalist movement then crystalizing. It
is significant that whereas he was for many years spoken of and written about by sympathetic and eulogistic friends, the more recent biographies and studies have come from those of more critical affinities. For half a century and more only eulogistic "lives" were written. Now the greater wealth of sources available to the historian, the writer, and the biographer have given us a truer picture of this amazing personality. We begin to understand that we cannot assess the social and religious life of America from 1870 and on unless we give sympathetic examination of Moody's life and work. The most recent and the best study of D.L.Moody has come out of the context of the University of Chicago, and its appraisal is definitive and balanced in its judgment. Moody now is seen as one of the most creative influences in the United States from the 1870's through his preaching and ministry.
As a lay evangelist Moody was in the succession of many across the centuries and from Biblical times. He would not be associated with the impassioned Isaiah or the eloquent Apollos: he was closer to the rugged Amos and the blunt Peter. The wisdom of Moses and the education of Paul were not his: he had another endowment like the loving compassion of Hosea and the pin-pointed speech of Matthew the business man. His early years in business and as a shoe salesman prepared him to meet and approach people with the gospel. In the Chicago Sunday School work and the service given to the soldiers in the Civil War as a lay minister, he laid the foundation of later evangelistic efforts. He was not the product of a theological seminary or a college education, but when he spoke he was heard like his Lord and Master of whom it was said: ''whence has this man letters, having never learned? ''and ''the common people heard him gladly.''
His sermons of which this Treasury is a sampling were simple and to the point. They lack homelitical structure, but were well illustrated for contact with people of all walks of life.
Moody did not hesitate to borrow freely from others in what was said or written if it assisted him with his message. This was not ''plagiarism''in the ordinary sense, but a desire to ''learn from others'' because of his earlier limited education. Anyone who had something worthwhile to say would find him at their feet to listen and learn. The messages for the most part were taken down verbatim by eager newspaper reporters who followed him and found good ''copy'' for the press. He stood sturdy and stocky in build, with unmusical voice, but with earnest and compassionate tones pleading with people.
The sermons have no literary merit or polished style of any school. They carry the thrust of brusk, straight-forward utterance. The common touch and the homely story found entrance into the mind of simple, common people, but also was received by the educated who overlooked the blemishes of speech of this salesman for God. Sometimes and more than the exception, the sermons were diffuse, rambling, unconnected, and repetitious. Logical structure was lacking as in a Charles G. Finney, the lawyer-evangelist before him, but in spite of these handicaps Moody stirred the crowds by his sincerity and zeal. Dr. R. W. Dale, eminent Congregational preacher-theologian in England, supported Moody and said of him: ''he was the only man he knew who could speak of hell he had tears when he spoke!'' He also called attention to the evangelistic emphasis of the evangelist in ''Christ as Mediator'': ''that Christ came to save men, and can do it, is the substance of nearly all of his discourses.''
When an appraisal of Moody's Theology is attempted, we find preaching on the major themes of evangelicalism ''sin-salvation power of the Holy Spirit Christ's death and resurrection (little about the Incarnation) '' with strong proclamation concerning the Atonement. He accepted the historic view of the vicarious and substitutionary death of Christ. His preaching was not bound by any systematic views he may
have inherited from others or that he heard in his formative years. His constant and concentrated Bible study was the foundation of his belief. The stress here is obviously on what is known as ''the moral influence'' theory of the Atonement. It was the vicarious nature of Christ's death which moved him to say: ''because He died for me, I love Him. Because He died for me, I will serve Him. I will work for Him, I will give Him my very life.''
His messages were Christ-centered and Moody was wont to say that: ''faith isn't a creed about Christ, but it is Christ.'' This personal encounter was at the heart of his appeal for decision and discipleship. Moody found in his day that faith in God and general acceptance of the Bible made it easy for him to urge a commitment. He saw that a time was coming (our day) that there would be a decay of such faith and then we would need a teaching evangelism. His work was made much simpler in that the background of belief and instruction was there and he had only to call to decision. Thus his influence was widespread. A study of social movements during the 1870's and '90's would bring to light that Moody was not only in the mainstream of American religious fundamentalism, but was closer to that part of evangelicalism which was then profoundly influenced by British pietistic biblicism. The stress on God's love for man and His desire for man's salvation was closer to Methodist (not Congregational) theology. His own spiritual awakening and deepening of faith at the crucial juncture of his ministry had links with the piety and search for perfection then in vogue.
In preparing this Treasury I recall that my first introduction to D.L.Moody was the mention of his name repeatedly in religious circles in Edinburgh, Scotland. I was a lad just committed to Christ and engaged in evangelistic work with other young men. Those who led us told how this American layman had come to our city and country, and under God was used to stir the churches and reach out to the public. The results
of his work were around us in churches and missions where men spoke of him with respect and thanksgiving. Dr .George H. Morrison, in his Moderator's message given at the General Assembly of the United Free Church of Scotland, in the Assembly Hall, Edinburgh, on the subject of ''Revival'' paid eloquent testimony to the ministry of Moody. Listening as a student I recall he said that ''looking back over his lifetime and surveying the church life of Scotland, more pastors and elders owed their salvation and spiritual awakening to the work of Moody than to any other influence." Thus the tradition of an enlightened evangelical ministry has continued in that land.
Moody's many published volumes have been consulted and from these a selection has been made to cover a wide variety of his preaching and teaching. The Bibliography indicates many of these sources. No one can say with certitude what was the secret of this man's life and work. His limitations in education were obvious. His handicaps as far as worldly success was measured were not hidden. To engage in the preaching ministry as a lay evangelist in a day when in America and in Great Britain there were scores of outstanding preachers whose names were household names was from a human judgment foolishness. Yet in the divine providence this was the man matched for that hour whom God chose to use ''the treasure in an earthen vessel'' (II Cor. 4:7).
Several significant words should be noted:
Robert W. Dale, Birmingham, England, was puzzled because of the ordinary man with lack of distinctive power, yet holding thousands of people enthralled with gospel preaching. Once he remarked to Moody rather bluntly that ''the work was most plainly of God, for I could see no real relation between him and what he had done.''
Henry Varley, West London, England, spoke casually on one occasion and the words startled Moody; ''the world has yet to see what God can do with and for and through a man who
is fully and wholly consecrated to Him.'' In reflection, Moody said ''a man! He meant any man. He didn't say he had to be educated, or brilliant, or anything else. Just a man. Well, by the Holy Spirit in me I'll be that man.''
G. Campbell Morgan paid tribute to Moody as ''a man sent from God'' with an octagon of strength. In that eightfold character manifested in him was ''tenderness, humor, common sense, insight, immediateness, passion, breadth, and modesty''.
Henry Drummond said of Moody, ''He was the biggest human I ever met.''
To those of us who did not live in Moody's day or have that privilege of hearing him preach, a Treasury in writing may well be an introduction to the mind and spirit of one of God's radiant servants. He was a special instrument chosen by God. It would be utterly foolish to say that anyone could have done, or that anyone could do now the work that Moody did. He was given to the church, and through the church to the world at a time when there was the need of the gospel of the grace of God. These selections could carry the flame from that living fire of yesterday to stir a new blaze today.
RALPH G. TURNBULL
The First Presbyterian Church
Seattle, Washington, 1970
Chapter One || Table of Contents for The Best of D.L. Moody