Dwight Lyman Moody, whose name is already historic as the Evangelist of the Nineteenth century, was born in the rural town of Northfield, Mass., on the 5th of February, 1837. His father's father had settled in that town in 1796, being by trade a mason; and earlier mention of the Moody family is given in the register of the Roxbury church, dating as far back as 1633. His mother's family, which was named Holton, also dwelt in that same State, for seven generations. His father, Edwin, lived to see six sons born, of whom the eldest was thirteen and Dwight the youngest, besides a daughter. His home was a spacious farmhouse, a two-storied double-front with an attic; and it stood on the road a little outside the town. By farming a tract of a few acres, and working also as a stone mason, he contrived to earn a comfortable livelihood. But heavy losses from a business venture fell upon the family, followed unexpectedly by the death of the father, after a few hours of illness. And as a final burden, a twin boy and girl were born a month later. Although Dwight was only four years old then, he was deeply impressed by the shadow of death on the family hearth. In his sermon on the Prodigal Son he recalls his childish horror, saying: "The first thing I remember was the death of my father. It was a beautiful day in June when he fell suddenly dead. The shock made such an impression on me, young as I was, that I shall never forget it. I remember nothing about the funeral, but his death has made a lasting impression upon me."
Mrs. Moody bore with a brave heart the weight of a household that would have crushed most women, and nurtured her flock of nine as best she could. She refused all offers to part with any of her children. Instead of breaking up the family, she kept all busily at work in the garden, at picking berries and fruit, and doing chores for the farmers around. She daily instilled into their minds a little teaching from the Scriptures, and took them regularly to the services of the Unitarian church and Sunday school.
Reared in such a school of poverty, labor and self-denial, Dwight grew up a sturdy, ruddy boy, self-reliant, strong in will, and possessing a flow of animal spirits that made him a favorite with his playmates. His mother said of him: "He used to think himself a man when he was only a boy." His pastor, Mr. Everett, once engaged him to work at the parsonage, but found him so full of mischief that he was glad to dismiss him to his home. Nor did the teacher of the district school find him a hopeful pupil. Fun pleased Dwight better than study. So, though he attended the sessions until almost seventeen years old, he progressed but poorly in reading and writing, was a bad speller, and knew but little of ciphering. Yet he was in no sense a vicious lad. He always respected his mother's authority, and never wholly escaped the influence of the religious training at her hands. Once, when he was driving cows as a six-year-old, an old fence fell over on him and pinned him to the ground. "I tried and tried," he has said, "but could not lift the heavy rails. I hallooed for help, but nobody came. Then I thought I should have to die away up there on the mountain all alone. But I happened to think that maybe God would help me, and so I asked him; and after that I could lift the rails."
Though Dwight was not a studious boy, yet he was observant, watchful, and keenly sympathetic to impressions from nature and real life. He has related how in his childhood death was a terrible enemy to him. "Up in that little New England village where I came from, it was the custom to toll out the bell whenever any one died, and to toll one stroke for every year. Sometimes they would toll out seventy strokes for a man of seventy, or forty strokes for a man of forty. I used to think when they died at seventy, and sometimes at eighty, well, that is a good ways off. But sometimes it would be a child at my age, and then it used to be very solemn. Sometimes I could not bear to sleep in a room alone. Death used to trouble me, but, thanks to God, it don't trouble me now." Another of his experiences as a boy refers to a little excursion: "I remember when I was a boy I went several miles from home with an elder brother. That seemed to me the longest visit of my life. It seemed that I was then further away from home than I had ever been before, or have ever been since. While we were walking down the street we saw an old man coming toward us, and my brother said: 'There is a man that will give you a cent. He gives every new boy that comes into this town a cent.' That was my first visit to the town, and when the old man got opposite to us he looked around, and my brother, not wishing me to lose the cent and to remind the old man that I had not received it, told him that I was a new boy in the town. The old man, taking off my hat, placed his trembling hand on my head, and told me I had a Father in heaven. It was a kind, simple act, but I feel the impression of the old man's hand upon my head today."
The saddest memory of these days of childhood relates to the running away from home of his eldest brother. He has described the incident pathetically in the sermon on the Prodigal Son. We reprint it here as narrated in England, and in language somewhat different from that recorded in this volume. I well remember the long winter nights when we all sat around the fire, how mother would go on telling us about father and his goodness — she was never tired of talking about him. But if any of us mentioned our eldest brother, all would be hushed in a moment. She never could speak of him without tears. She said it would have eased her heart even to know he was dead. 'I don't know,' she would say, 'but he is lying sick in some foreign land, with nobody to watch over him.' I do believe she would have gone all round the world to find him. Some nights I used to hear that mother's voice praying for that boy. Ah! how she used to pour out her heart in prayer to God for her wandering son; and when on winter nights a great gale would come sweeping and howling along, she would turn pale, and in a voice choked with sobs would say, 'Perhaps my boy is at sea with the gale blowing, and in danger of going down!' Well, on one particular day there was always a family gathering to thank God for the harvest, and on this occasion she always put a chair for him, but the chair was always empty. Many and many a time have I gone to the window in the hope that I should see him coming up the garden-walk to cheer our mother's heart, but all was in vain — he didn't come. And so time rolled on. The step that once was so firm became feeble, and the hair that was black as night became silvery gray. How she loved that boy! But amid all this disappointment she held fast to the hope that she would yet see him come back before she died. One day, as she sat in her cottage, her twin children with her (for the rest of us had gone away into the world, one in one direction and another in another, to fight the battle of life), she saw a stranger coming through the gate. At first she did not recognize that boy, with his long beard and altered face. But when she saw the tears straggling down his cheeks, the truth flashed on her in an instant, and she sprang to him with the words, 'Come in! come in!' 'No, mother,' he said, 'I will not until you forgive — never!' Do you believe she forgave him? Forgave him! She threw her arms round him and kissed him — the dead was alive, the lost was found! I cannot tell you the joy that welled up in my heart when I heard the news that my poor, long-lost brother had come home again. But this I know. The tears were wiped away from that mother's eyes, and the sunshine of happiness was in her heart again."
Another incident which occurred in Dwight's early manhood made a deep impression on his mind, and prepared his heart to receive willingly the seed of the Word when the time should come for its sowing by the Spirit.The incident cannot be better told than in his own life-like words, as given in one of those autobiographical fragments which he has so frankly narrated from time to time for the warning and encouragement of his fellows.
"Before I left the farm," he said, "I was talking one day to a man who was working there, and who was weeping. I said to him, 'What is the trouble?' And he told me a very strange story — strange to me then, for I was not at that time a Christian. He said that his mother was a Christian when he left home to seek his fortune. When he was about starting, his mother took him by the hand and spoke these parting words: 'My son, seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.' 'This,' said he, 'was my mother's favorite text.' When he got into the town to which he was going, he had to spend the Sabbath there. He went to a little church, and the minister preached from the text, 'Seek ye first the kingdom of God;' and he thought the text and sermon were meant for him. He wanted to get rich; and when he was settled in life he would seek the kingdom of God. He went on, and the next Sabbath he was in another village. It was not long before he heard another minister preach from the same text, 'Seek ye first the kingdom of God.' He thought someone must have been speaking to the minister about him; for the minister just pictured him out. But he said, when he got settled in life, and had control of his time, and was his own master, he would then seek the kingdom of God. Some time after he was at another age, and here went to church again; and he had not been going a great while when he heard the third minister preach from the same text: 'Seek ye the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.' He said it went right down into his soul; but he calmly and deliberately made up his mind that he would not become a Christian until he had got settled in life, and owned his farm. This man said, 'Now I am what the world calls rich. I go to church every Sunday; but I have never heard a sermon, from that day to this, which has ever made any impression on my heart. My heart is as hard as a stone.' As he said that, tears trickled down his cheeks. I was a young man, and did not know what it meant. When I became converted, I thought I would see this man when I should go back home, and preach Christ to him. When I went back home I said to my widowed mother, naming the man, 'Is he still living in the same place?' My mother said, 'He is gone mad, and has been taken away to the insane asylum; and to every one that goes to see him he points his finger and says, 'Seek ye first the kingdom of God?' I thought I should like to see him; but he was so far gone it would do no good. The next time I went home he was at his home, idiotic. I went to see him. When I went in, I said, 'Do you know me?' He pointed his finger at me and said, 'Young man, seek ye first the kingdom of God.' God had driven that text into his mind, but his reason was gone. Three years ago, when I visited my father's grave, I noticed a new stone had been put up. I stopped, and found it was my friend's. That autumn wind seemed whispering that text, 'Seek ye first the kingdom of God.'"
At the age of seventeen, this country lad, stout and robust in physique, but unpolished in manner and shabby in dress, set off from Northfield to seek his fortune in Boston, with his mother's blessing upon him as a benediction, and a few dollars in his pocket. He also bore with him a capacity for persistent work and enthusiasm yet latent, and so unsuspected by himself and his friends. His uncle, Samuel S. Holton, who was in business as a shoe merchant, hesitated to engage such a shaggy, wayward lad, and young Moody was too proud to ask him for a situation. So the lad scoured Boston for employment. As no opening presented itself, he canvassed Lowell, again fruitlessly, and then began to think about starting for New York. In this emergency, his uncle agreed to hire him at a small salary. He had to promise beforehand, however, that he would be guided by his relative's advice, and also attend the Congregational Church of Mount Vernon and its Sunday school. Being energetic and tireless, he soon proved himself an excellent salesman. He was generally ready at the door to welcome buyers, and when customers were slack he walked through the streets to seek traders.
At this critical period in his life, young Moody became a shy and silent attendant at the Congregational Church. At first, the evangelical preaching of the pastor, Dr. Kirk, was distasteful to him, and the raw scholar looked unpromising to his teacher, Mr. Edward Kimball. But the interest in the lesson which he showed by the quaint question, "That Moses was what you call a pretty smart man, wasn't he?" induced his earnest teacher to visit him at his place of business. Mr. Kimball laid his hand on the his shoulder and spoke a few kind words to him. Then he asked him the direct question, "Will you not give your heart to Jesus?" The inquiry pierced him to the heart. He sought and found Jesus as his Saviour, and resolved to consecrate himself to the service of his God. Henceforth life was a new revelation to him. "The morning I was converted," he has said, "I went outdoors and I fell in love with the bright sun shining over the earth. I never loved the sun before. And when I heard the birds singing their sweet songs, I fell in love with the birds. Like the Scotch lassie who stood on the hills of her native land breathing the sweet air, and when asked why she did it, said, I love the Scotch air.' If the church was filled with love, it could do so much more."
In another bit of modest autobiography given as an experience to his English hearers, Mr. Moody referred to the momentous point of his conversion, and told the story of how he was permitted many years afterward to lead to the Saviour a son of his teacher. "When I was in Boston," said he, "I used to attend a Sunday school class, and one day I recollect a Sabbath-school teacher came round behind the counter of the shop I used to work in, and put his hand on my shoulder, and talked to me about Christ and my soul. I had not felt I had a soul till then. I said: 'This is a very strange thing. Here is a man who never saw me until within a few days, and he is weeping over my sins, and I never shed a tear about them.' But I understand it now, and know what it is to have a passion for men's souls and weep over their sins. I don't remember what he said, but I can feel the power of that young man's hand on my shoulder tonight. Young Christian men, go and lay your hand on your comrade's shoulder, and point him to Jesus tonight. Well, he got me up to the school, and it was not long before I was brought into the kingdom of God. I went thousands of miles away after that, but I often thought I should like to see that man again. Time rolled on, and at length I was at Boston again; and I recollect, one night when I was preaching there, a fine, noble looking young man came up the aisle and said: 'I should like to speak with, Mr. Moody. I had often heard my father talk about you.' 'Who is your father?' I asked. 'Edward Kimball,' was the reply. 'What?' said I, 'my old Sunday school teacher?'I asked him his name, and he said it was Henry, and that he was seventeen years of age. I tried to put my hand on his shoulder just where his father did on my shoulder, and I said to him: 'You are just as old as I was when your father put his hand on my shoulder. Are you a Christian, Henry?' 'No, sir,' he said; and as I talked to him about his soul, with my hand on his shoulder, the tears began to trickle down. 'Come,' said I, 'I will show you how you can be saved,' and I took him into a pew and quoted promise after promise to him. And I went on praying with him, but as he did not get light, I read to him the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah: '"All we, like sheep, have gone astray." Do you believe that, Henry?' 'Yes, sir, I know that's true.' '"We have turned every one to his own way." Is that true?' 'Yes sir, that's true, and that's what troubles me: I like my own way.' 'But there is another sentence yet, Henry: "The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all?" Do you believe that, Henry?' 'No, I do not, sir.' 'Now,' I said, 'why should you take a verse of God's word and cut it in two, and believe one part and not another? Here are two things against you, and you believe them; and here is one thing in your favor, but you won't believe that. What authority have you for serving God's word in that way?' 'Well,' he said, 'Mr. Moody, if I believed that I should be saved.' 'I know you would,' I replied, 'and that's exactly what I want you to do. But you take the bitter, and won't have the sweet with it.' So I held him to that little word hath-'He hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.'"
Moody as a young Christian was for a while a mere babe in the Kingdom. His zeal was strong, but his mind was not tutored in the Scriptures, his command of language was very limited, his sentences were broken and ungrammatical. So it happened, singularly enough, that his application in May, 1855, for admission into church membership was not accepted, as he was thought not to know enough. He was not received until May 4, 1856. The fact was doubtless as Mr. Kimball has since stated: "I can truly say, and in saying it I magnify the infinite grace of God as bestowed upon him, that I have seen few persons whose minds were spiritually darker than was his when he came into my Sunday-school class; and I think that the committee of the Mount Vernon Church seldom met an applicant for membership more unlikely ever to become a Christian of clear and decided views of Gospel truth, still less to fill any extended sphere of public usefulness. Mr. Moody remained in my class for two years, until he bade me good-bye on leaving Boston for Chicago." And another Christian brother has testified that Mr. Moody, when he began to labor publicly for the saving of souls, had little more than a half of a talent to account for. But it is now evident that he put his half talent to service so diligently that the Lord added to it continually, until at the present time he has come to be endowed with the transcendant influence of ten talents, and to be mightiest among the mighty in the proclamation of the glad tidings of salvation by the gift of God.
Older Christians, who had learned wisdom in the school of experience, felt called upon occasionally to counsel and warn the inexperienced and impetuous layman to watch over the utterances that sprang in such a tempestuous torrent from his heart. Such a rebuke, which he had the grace to profit by, has been told by him. "I remember once when I was first converted I spoke in a Sabbath school, and there seemed to be a great deal of interest, and quite a number rose for prayer, and I remember I went out quite rejoiced; but an old man followed me out. I have never seen him since. I never had seen him before, and don't even know his name — but he caught hold of my hand and gave me a little bit of advice. I didn't know what he meant at the time, but he said: 'Young man, when you speak again, honor the Holy Ghost.' I was hastening off to another church to speak, and all the way over it kept ringing in my ears —' Honor the Holy Ghost.' And I said to myself 'I wonder what the old man means.' I have found out since what he meant. And I think that all that have been to work in the vineyard of the Lord have learnt that lesson that, if we honor Him in our efforts to do good, He will honor us and work through us; but if we don't honor Him, we will surely break down. The only work that is going to stand to eternity is the work done by the Holy Ghost, and not by any one of us."
At the age of twenty, Mr. Moody began to feel straitened in Boston for lack of opportunity to put his hand to work for the Master. Accordingly, in September, 1856, he removed to Chicago, where he found a situation in the boot and shoe store of Mr. Wiswall. He united himself with the Plymouth Congregational Church, and began to take an active part in the prayer meetings. He was so thoroughly in earnest to do good that he hired four pews in his church, and set about hunting up young men and boys to occupy those sittings. But his efforts to express his experiences were as unacceptable there as in Boston, and he was repeatedly advised not to attempt to speak in public.
It is now apparent that the Lord was preparing to cut him loose from denominational effort, that he might devote all his powers to the evangelization of that great city. The population of Chicago was increasing with astonishing rapidity. A large mass of its people were cut loose from old religious associations, and living in worldliness; another large proportion was composed of the wholly irreligious — the indifferent, who never entered a church; the scoffers at revealed truth, many of whom were of German descent; and the recklessly vicious. That metropolis of the great Northwest was in danger of escaping from the grasp of the Evangelical churches, just as the Lord was laying the burden of caring for the souls of the churchless upon this one man, whose fiery zeal, bluntness of speech, and loving heart, were admirable qualifications for winning the masses to listen to the preaching of the cross of Jesus Christ.
A casual visit to a Methodist class-meeting led Mr. Moody to join himself to a mission band, who spent Sunday mornings in scattering tracts throughout the city. While thus engaged, he came across a little Sunday school in North Wells Street, and offered himself as a teacher. He was accepted, on condition that he would bring his pupils with him. Accordingly a week later he appeared followed by eighteen ragged children, whom he had coaxed in out of the lanes. These he soon transferred to another teacher, and kept on himself in the task of recruiting till the schoolroom was crowded. Then, in the spring of 1857, he began to look after the welfare of the sailors in the port of Chicago. On Sunday mornings he busied himself in circulating tracts and Testaments, in praying and conversing in vessels, boarding-houses, hospitals and prisons.
As Mr. Moody grew in the stature of Christian manhood by diligence in studying the Bible, and ardor in seeking out the impenitent, his soul became more deeply awakened to the necessity of carrying the news of redemption in the spirit of love to those sunk in the wretchedness of sin and vice. So he chose out for himself the worst section in northern Chicago, a district known as "The Sands," where gamblers, thieves, and the depraved of both sexes herded together. He hired a rickety saloon near the North Market, for Sunday school services and evening meetings. Then he set about persuading the intemperate and degraded to come in, while their unkempt and boisterous children were won over to attend by gifts of maple sugar. There they clustered together, a rude, disorderly crowd, at first without even seats, and with only the shadow of any discipline. The bonds of sympathy were the singing of hymns, led by two helpmates, the telling of stories by Moody, the display of pictures, and the bestowal of candies.
A graphic picture of the evangelist as he was at this time was given a few years since by Mr. Reynolds, in these words: "The first meeting I ever saw him at was in a little old shanty that had been abandoned by a saloon-keeper. Mr. Moody had got the place to hold the meetings in at night. I went there a little late; and the first thing I saw was a man standing up with a few tallow candles around him, holding a negro boy, and trying to read to him the story of the Prodigal Son and a great many words he could not read out, and had to skip. I thought, 'If the Lord can ever use such an instrument as that for His honor and glory, it will astonish me.' After that meeting was over, Mr. Moody said to me, 'Reynolds, I have got only one talent; I have no education, but I love the Lord Jesus Christ, and I want to do something for him: I want you to pray for me.' I have never ceased, from that day to this, to pray for that devoted Christian soldier. I have watched him since then, have had counsel with him, and know him thoroughly; and, for consistent walk and conversation, I have never met a man to equal him. It astounds me to look back and see what Mr. Moody was thirteen years ago, and then what he is under God today, — shaking Scotland to its very centre, and reaching now over to Ireland. The last time I heard from him, his injunction was, 'Pray for me every day; pray now that the Lord will keep me humble.'"
The school prospered, as it could not help doing under such auspices, and grew steadily larger, as that outcast neighborhood was canvassed in a circle ever widening. A larger room became necessary, and the use of the hall over the North Market was obtained from Mayor Haines. The lack of seats was supplied by the liberality of a Christian merchant, Mr. John V. Farwell, and that gentleman was elected superintendent by acclamation. Moody was thus set free to search after new scholars. He labored so abundantly that within a year the average attendance at his school was 650, while sixty volunteers from various churches served as teachers. During the six years these faithful services were kept up, fully 2000 children are thought to have been brought each year within its control. The harvest for the fold of Christ from the good seed there sown cannot be known until eternity dawns. Among the memorable incidents of the school was a visit paid by Abraham Lincoln, after his election to the Presidency in 1860, and his speaking a bit of genial advice, bidding the scholars find out from the Bible the way to grow up to be manly men and womanly women. And truly many of its scholars were blessed for life. One beggar boy, who came in on a cold February day, dressed in an overcoat all in tatters and with no coverings for his legs but newspapers, grew up to be a prominent business man, and superintendent of a large Sunday school. Mothers who were living in open profligacy were persuaded to send away their daughters from the danger of contamination, and thus many young girls were rescued from lives of shame.
It was at this time that Mr. Moody, after a season of earnest prayer, resolved to devote his entire time and strength to the work of an evangelist. For two years preceding, his business engagement had been that of a commercial traveller, and prosperous as well; while he had always arranged his trips so as to be at home for the duties of each Sunday. He now announced to his employer his decision to give all his time to God, and was asked in return how he was going to live. "God will provide for me," he replied, "if he wishes me to keep on; and I shall keep on till I am obliged to stop." So with a child-like trust in God, he set about his work. He had no home, and he was long content to use as a bed a bench in the room of the Young Men's Christian Association, while a dark coal closet under the stairs served him for praying in secret. His food was of the plainest fare, and his expenses were less than the contributions forced upon him by his friends. The searching experience which led him to this work of self-consecration was narrated by him in his season of services at Chicago sixteen years later, on Sunday, November 2l, 1876, as follows:
"I will tell you how I got my first impulse in this personal work for souls. I hadn't got hold of the idea; there was no one to teach me, and I was going on with the general work of my school in 1860, when a man who was one of my Sunday school teachers came into my place of business one day, looking very ill. I asked him what was the matter, and he replied, I have been bleeding at the lungs, and the doctors have given me up to die.' 'But you are not afraid to die, are you?' 'No, I think not,' he answered; 'but there is my class. I must leave it, and there is not one of them converted.' It was a class of young girls that gave me more trouble than any other class in the whole school; and he had hard work to get along with them. Well, said I; 'can't you go and call on them before you go away?' 'No,' he said; he was too weak to walk. So I went and got a carriage, and took him round to see those careless scholars. And he pleaded with them and prayed with them, one by one, to give their hearts to Christ. He spent ten days at this work, and every one of that class was saved. The night before he left the city for his home at the East, where he was going to see his mother and to die, we got the teacher and the class together; and such a meeting I never saw on earth. He prayed and I prayed; and then the scholars of their own accord, without my asking them — I didn't know as they could pray — prayed for their teacher, and for themselves that they might all be kept in the way of life, and by-and-by all meet again in heaven. I have thanked God a thousand times for those ten days of personal work."
These labors, though so unselfish, had often to encounter opposition, abuse, and even threats of violence. Once his life was menaced in a hovel by three savage men. They gave him a chance to say his prayers, however, and when he arose from his knees they had fled, being unable to resist the witness of the Spirit. Frequently he confronted infidels, deists, and rum-sellers with the plain testimony of the Word of God, and silenced their enmity. As his school lay in a Roman Catholic district, the window-glass was broken repeatedly by the rowdyish boys, and Mr. Moody visited their bishop to seek a remedy. That prelate promised redress on condition of him joining his fold, and agreed to allow him still to pray with Protestants. "Well, bishop," replied the blunt evangelist, "no man wants to belong to the true Church more than I do. I wish you would pray for me right here, that God would show me his true Church, and help me to be a worthy member of it." The bishop had the grace to comply, and from that time the windows of the schoolroom were not molested. Yet encouragements to labor also came to him. He was made city missionary of the Young Men's Christian Association, and contrived to buy a pony, so as to make longer tours in the by-ways. Within a twelve-month he had assisted above five hundred families, at an expenditure of $2380.
Mr. Moody was always fearless in maintaining the honor of His Master, no matter what was the opposition. A characteristic instance of this was given in an address to young converts, upon the point of never doing anything they could not feel like praying over. "Once," he said, "I received an invitation to be at the opening of a large billiard-hall. I suppose they thought it was a good joke to invite me. I went before the time came and asked the man if he meant it. He said yes. I asked him if I might bring a friend along. He said I might. I said, 'If you say or do anything that will grieve my friend, I may speak to him during your exercises.' They didn't know what I meant, and knitted their brows and looked puzzled. At last he asked, 'You are not going to pray, are you? We never want any praying here.' 'Well,' I said, 'I never go where I cannot pray; but I'll come round.' 'No,' said he, 'we don't want you.' 'Well, I'll come, anyway, since you invited me,' said I. But he rather insisted that I shouldn't, and finally I told him: 'We'll compromise the matter. I won't come if you will let me pray with you now.' So he agreed to that, and I got down with one rum-seller on each side of me, and prayed that they might fail in their business, and never have any more success in it from that day. Well, they went on for about two months, and then, sure enough, they failed. God answered prayer that time."
The outbreak of the civil war in 1861 extended the sphere of Mr. Moody's activities. He was foremost in organizing a system of visitation and prayer meetings among the troops gathered at Camp Douglas, near the city, and he secured the erection of a neat chapel there, at a cost of $2300. Very soon he was the leader of a band of one hundred and fifty Christian workers, and was carrying the Gospel news from tent to tent and soldier to soldier, with all the ardor and homeliness of brotherly love. After the fall of Fort Donelson, in February, 1862, he was one of a special committee sent to bear the consolations of religion to the wounded and dying volunteers. There, as he stood many a time in the presence of souls whose lives were already entered on the muster-roll of death, with only a few hours or moments to turn the glazing eyes to a crucified Saviour as the abiding hope of redemption, he was himself a scholar put under Divine tuition, that he might realize profoundly the need of teaching sinners the narrow and near way to salvation. His addresses often contain allusions to scenes of army life, and among them occurs this story of a dying soldier.
"After one of our terrible battles — I was in the army, attending soldiers — and I had just laid down one night, past midnight, to get a little rest, when a man came and told me that a wounded soldier wanted to see me. I went to the dying man. He said, 'I wish you to help me to die!' I said: 'I would help you to die if I could. I would take you on my shoulders and carry you into the Kingdom of God, if I could; but I cannot. I can tell you of one that can.' And I told him of Christ being willing to save him; and how Christ left heaven and came into this world to seek and to save that which was lost. I just quoted promise after promise, but all was dark, and it almost seemed as if the shades of death were gathering around his soul.I could not leave him, and at last I thought of the third chapter of John, and I said to him: 'Look here, I am going to read to you now a conversation that Christ had with a man that went to him when he was in your state of mind, and inquired what he was to do to be saved.' I just read that conversation to the dying man, and he lay there with his eyes riveted upon me, and every word seemed to be going home to his heart, which was open to receive the truth. When I came to the verse where it says: 'As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life,' the dying man cried: 'Stop, sir, is that there?' 'Yes, it is all here.' Then he said, 'Won't you please read it to me again?' I read it the second time. The dying man brought his hands together, and he said: 'Bless God for that! Won't you please read it to me again?' I read through the whole chapter, but long before the end of it he had closed his eyes. He seemed to lose all interest in the rest of the chapter, and when I got through it his arms were folded on his breast. He had a sweet smile on his face; remorse and despair had fled away. His lips were quivering, and I leant over him, and heard him faintly whisper from his dying lips: 'As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up; that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.' He opened his eyes and fixed his calm, deathly look on me, and said: '0 that is enough! that is all I want.' And he pillowed his dying head on the trust of those two verses, and in a few hours rode away on one of the Saviour's chariots, and took his seat in the kingdom of God."
The evangelist, who so needed the comforts and restfulness of family life became the possessor of a home of his own upon marrying Miss Emma C. Revell, on the 28th of August, 1862, and renting a small cottage. His wife was an active worker in his mission field and thoroughly in harmony with his life of consecration to the Lord. His fireside was a happy and hospitable one, with its latch-string out to all comers, so that a prisoner just released from jail was as sure of a welcome as an earnest Christian brother. This union was blessed with two children, a daughter and a son. The father took delight in romping with his children, and was tenderly careful to bind them to himself from infancy by the bonds of loving sympathy. He seems to have instinctively recognized the truth, which so many parents fail to discern and so wreck precious homes, that unless a child learns to place its heart and its will in the keeping of its father and mother within the very first years of its childhood, it never will manifest implicit obedience and unquestioning trust. Some of the tenderest incidents he describes are founded on his presentation of such Scriptural truths to their opening minds.
"I wanted" he said, "to teach my little boy what faith was, a short time ago, and so I put him on a table, for he was about two years old. I stood back three or four feet and said, 'Willie, jump.' The little fellow said, 'Pa, I'se afraid.' I said 'Willie, I will catch you; just look right at me and just jump.' And the little fellow got all ready to jump, and then looked down again and said, 'I'se afraid. "Willie, didn't I tell you I would catch you? Will pa deceive you? Now, Willie, look me right in the eye and jump, and I will catch you.' And the little fellow got all ready the third time to jump, but he looked on the floor and says, 'I'se afraid.' 'Didn't I tell you I would catch you?' 'Yes.' At last I said: ' Willie, don't take your eyes off me.' And I gazed into the little fellow's eyes and said 'Now jump; don't look at the floor.' And he leaped into my arms. Then he said to me, Let me jump again.' I put him back, and the moment he got on the table he jumped. And after that, when he was on the table, and I was standing five or six feet away, I heard him cry, 'Pa, I'se coming,' and had just time to rush and catch him. He seemed to put too much confidence in me. But you cannot put too much confidence in God. Now faith never looks down; it looks right up. God says, 'Trust me,' and God will bring us through all our difficulties if we will only trust him."
Nor was this matter of faith in the watchful and guiding providence of God merely a surface opinion and talk of the lips with the father. It was inwrought into his everyday life, for his daily support was then wholly dependent on the Lord. On parting with his wife one morning, he said to her: "I have no money, and the house is without supplies. It looks as if the Lord had had enough of me in this mission work, and is going to send me back again to sell boots and shoes." But a day or two brought to him two fifty-dollar checks from a stranger for the use of himself and his school. Again, as he was setting out for his day's work, his wife asked him to order a barrel of flour that morning. He found his pocket was empty, however; but his mind was quickly diverted from the thought of money to the care of some souls he was then bearing constantly in prayer before the mercy-seat. So he returned home at night just as empty-handed, and found that a friend, whose heart had been moved upon from above, had sent ahead of him a barrel of flour. Another surprise came to him on New Year's day, 1868, in the shape of the lease of a cosy house already furnished for his occupancy, which was presented to him by some friends who were alive to his virtues and self-abnegation.
Meanwhile, Mr. Moody was more busily than ever at work for the Lord. He was president of the Chicago branch of the Christian Commission, and paid nine visits to the battle-front, being present among the Union soldiers after the conflicts of Shiloh, Pittsburgh Landing, and Murfreesboro'. He labored also with Southern prisoners of war, of whom ten thousand were confined in Camp Douglas, and still did not neglect his own special field of evangelization at the North Market hall. Already one thousand scholars were members of his school, and three hundred adult converts attended his regular services. As these latter could not be induced to separate from the teacher who had led them from iniquity unto Christ, he found himself, without his own volition, the unordained pastor of an earnest congregation of souls converted under his own ministry. These he kept engaged in distributing tracts, and testifying for the truth in byways and amid their neighbors. Such a congregation and pastor were unique in Christiandom but the witness of the Holy Spirit in their behalf was understandable. This body of believers, which was wholly without denominational bias, and accepted implicitly the common evangelical doctrines, was cordially welcomed to the fellowship of the city pastors. A church building was now a necessity, and a spacious house of worship was erected on Illinois Street in 1863, at a total cost of $20,000. No pastor ever looked more faithfully after the welfare of his individual members. On New Year's day it was his custom to visit every attendant, setting out in an omnibus on a run from house to house, inquiring after their various needs, and praying tenderly for the welfare of each. In this manner, he has been known to visit two hundred families in the course of a single day.
It was in one of Mr. Moody's flying visits to the East about this time that he preached the Gospel in New York City. The story is an entrancing one and cannot be omitted, the more so as he appears then to have had only a single earnest listener, and the service was thus in striking contrast with the next time of his preaching in that metropolis, which which was not until the great revival services of 1876. But the presentation of the everlasting truth was as faithful and impassioned on the first occasion as on the second.
"I was invited one day, some years ago, to visit and preach in the Tombs prison, New York. I had supposed that I should address the prisoners face to face, as I used to talk to the prisoners in the chapels of most of our jails. But when I got there, I found I had to stand on a little iron railing running from one tier of cells to another. There was a tier above and one below, and one on the same level with me. There I talked to a great, long, narrow passageway — to gates, to bars, and to brick walls. It was pretty hard preaching. I had never attempted to preach in that way before. I did not know, when I got through with it, how they had received me; and so I thought I would go and see them. I went to the first cell door and looked in. I found the men playing euchre. I suppose they had been playing all the time that I was preaching, and took no interest in the sermon. I looked into the window, and said, 'How is it with you here?' 'O chaplain, we do not want you to have a bad idea of us.' I said to myself, 'There is no one here to be saved, for there is no one lost.' And I got away as quick as I could. I went to another cell. There were three or four men in there; and I said, 'How is it with you here?' 'Well, stranger, we will tell you. We got into bad company, and the men that did the deed got clear and we got caught.' I said to myself 'There is no one here for Christ to save, for there is no one lost.' And I went along to the next cell; and I said, 'Well, my friends, how is it with you?' One of them said, 'A false witness went to court and swore a lie upon me.' He was perfectly innocent, and ought not to be there. I went on to the next cell, looked in, and said, 'Well, my friends, how is it with you?' They were innocent, thank God! But the man that did the deed looked very much like them. The people thought they were the men, and they got caught. They were perfectly innocent. They were not the men. I went along to the next cell. But no sooner did I ask the same question than they said they had not had their trial. They were going to have it that week, and they would be out on next Sunday. And so I went on. I never found so many innocent men. They were all innocent. I found a great many innocent men under lock and key, and they were all trying to justify themselves. There was no one guilty but the constables, the justices, or magistrates. They were the guilty ones. I got discouraged. I thought I would give it up; but I kept on, and I found one man in a cell alone. He had his elbows on his knees, and had his head buried in his hands. As I looked in, I could see the streams of tears running down upon his cheeks. They were the first tears I had seen. It did me good to look at them. I said, 'My friend, how is it with you here?' He looked up. It was a look of remorse and despair. He said, '0, sir, my sins are more than I can bear.' 'Thauk God for that!' said I. '"Thank God for that!" Ain't you the man that's been preaching to us?' 'Yes, sir.' 'And yet I thought you said you was a friend to the prisoner; and you are glad that my sins are more than I can bear?' 'Yes.' 'Yes? Then you are a queer kind of friend. How is it that you are glad my sins are more than I can bear?' 'I am glad that they are more than you can bear. For if they are more than you can bear, you can cast them on the Lord Jesus.' 'He will not bear my sins. Why I am the worst man living today.' And he began enumerating his sins, and what a load it was for him to bear. It was refreshing to stand there and hear him tell me. It was the Lord Jesus that had got into that cell and into that man's heart, and I told him so; then I told him to pray to God to forgive him and to take away his sin. He thought God would never forgive such a sinner as he was. I told him: 'You can get all those sins, multiplied by ten thousand, forgiven; because you have committed probably ten thousand more sins than you have thought of. You can sum them all up, and write underneath, "The blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanseth from all sin."' And I stood there and preached the Gospel to that thirsty soul. He seemed to drink it in. I said, 'Let us get down here and pray.' And we did, he inside and I outside. And after I got through prayer I said, 'My friend, now you pray.' 'I pray! It would be blasphemy for me to pray — for a wretch like me to call upon God.' I said to him, 'Call upon God. Ask for mercy. That's what you want. Ask him to have mercy upon you. The poor wretch could not lift his eyes towards heaven. He knelt down on the pavement, and all he could say was, 'God be merciful to me, a vile wretch!' After his prayer I put my hand through the window in the door. He got hold of it and shook it, and a hot tear fell on my hand. That tear seemed to burn into my very soul. I said 'I am going to the hotel between nine and twelve o'clock. I want you to join in prayer, and make up your mind that you will not sleep tonight till you know.' That night I got much interested in prayer for the man. My heart was so overborne that I could not go back to Chicago without going down to the prison to see him. I went down, and I got the governor of the Tombs to let me in, and I went to his cell; and when I got there and saw him, the remorse and despair had all disappeared. It was all gone. His face was lit up with a heavenly glow. He seized my hand, and tears of joy began to flow. He pressed my hand and shook it, and said: 'I believe I am the happiest man in the whole city of New York. I thought when they brought me to this prison I should never go out again. I thought I never could walk down Broadway again. I thought I never could see my godly mother again. Now I thank God that they brought me; for if they had not I would never have known Christ.' He said, when he prayed the Lord Jesus heard his prayer. I asked him what time of the night he thought it was; and he said he thought it was about midnight that the Lord Jesus came into that cell and saved his soul. My dear friend, can you tell me why it was that God came into that prison, and passed by cell after cell, and set that one captive free? It was because he took his place as a poor lost sinner, and asked for mercy. The moment sinners do that and cry for mercy, they will get it."
Mr. Moody was privileged to enter Richmond with the army of General Grant, and several of the sights he saw there have been used by him to illustrate the work of Christ as a deliverer. "We had been there but a few hours," he related, "before I heard that the colored people were going to have a jubilee meeting down in the great African church that night; and I thought to myself, although I am a white man, I will get in there somehow. I had a hard fight to get in, but I did succeed at last. It was probably the largest church in the South. There were supposed to be three or four thousand black people there, and they had some chaplains of our Northern regiments for their orators on the occasion. Talk about eloquence, I never heard better. It seemed as if they were raised up for the occasion. I remember one of them, as he stood there on the platform, pointed down to the mothers and said: 'Mothers, you rejoice today that you are forever free, all your posterity is free; that little child has been taken from your bosom and sold to some distant State for the last time.' And some of those women shouted right out in meeting, 'Glory to God!' They could not keep the good news to themselves. They believed they were delivered. They believed the good news. Then this man turned to the young men and said: 'Young men, rejoice today! It is a day of jubilee, a day of glad tidings. We come to proclaim to you that you are free. You have heard the crack of the slave-trader's whip for the last time.' And they shouted and clapped their hands and said, 'Glory to God!' Then he turned to the young ladies and said: 'Rejoice today! You have been on the auction-block and sold into captivity for the last time.' And then the young maidens clapped their hands and shouted for joy. It was a jubilee. What made them so glad? They believed they were liberated, and that is what made them so joyful. People want to know why Christians are so joyful. It is because they have been delivered from Satan."
The Young Men's Christian Association of Chicago had been blessed by the pioneer efforts of Mr. Moody in its behalf, so that its noon-day prayer meeting, whose services had dwindled down to a single old Scotchwoman, was recruited in a few years to a thousand persons. Its members being desirous of obtaining a suitable building, saw no better way than to elect him president in 1865, and they continued him in office four years, till he retired in favor of Mr. Farwell. By his energetic and judicious plans, the spacious "Farwell Hall" was ready for dedication on the 29th of September, 1867. When that edifice was burned to the ground in the January following, he dauntlessly began again, and another hall soon arose on the same site. His vitality was so exhaustless that it permitted him to endure manifold toils. On Sunday mornings he would preach to his own people, in the afternoon superintend a Sunday school of a thousand people, and in the evening preach in the hall of the Association.
At the dedication of Farwell Hall, Mr. Moody had avowed to its members his faith that, by God's answer to their prayers and his blessing on their work, a mighty influence was to go out from them that "should extend through every county in the State, through every State in the Union, and finally, crossing the waters, should help to bring the whole world to God." This hope of faith soon met the beginning of its fulfillment in a special blessing vouchsafed to the leaders in the Sunday-school cause in Illinois. Conventions had been held for six years, but the sessions had been absorbed in matters of routine. Three days before the gathering of the seventh at Springfield, Mr. Moody with two earnest friends began a canvass among ministers and laymen in that city, to arouse them to the importance of the session approaching. At the preparatory services for prayer on Sunday afternoon, seventy inquirers arose, and pleadings for a blessing were continued at three meetings on Monday. The convention, ushered into being with such a baptism of the Spirit, marked an era of spiritual power, wherein very many sinners were converted unto Christ Jesus, while the dispersion of the delegates to their homes helped to permeate the State with the fervor of the anointing from above. And the same thorough intensity of purpose characterized the special meetings which this devoted man held in various districts. Nothing could daunt him or slacken his enthusiasm. Once, he visited a town in summer for revival work, having been unable to accept an earlier call. But one pastor bluntly told him: "I am sorry you have come. When we wrote to you, everything seemed favorable for a revival; but now all promise is gone." Another met him in a similar spirit, saying: 'You might better have staid at home; in the summer the people here are too busy." There-upon the evangelist went out alone into the public square, mounted an empty box, and began an exhortation with such earnestness that many passers-by were deeply affected. That night no church could contain the crowd of attendants, and the work of awakening spread like wildfire. Before he left the town, the first minister confessed to him: "I was mistaken; the Lord knew when to send you" while the second said: "I see now that summer is just the time for a revival."
Mr. Moody as a Christian was ever an incessant student of the Bible. It was his custom to rise at five o'clock in the morning, that he might enjoy several hours of its prayerful study, before he went about the duty of acting outwardly the grace he had been imbibing by feeding on the Word. He had a very simple rule to govern him in his choice of reading matter. "I do not read any book," be declared, "unless it will help me to understand the Book." And he was modestly ever ready to profit by the suggestions of those competent to teach him how to progress in his favorite study. His mind was directed to the importance of studying the Bible by the aid of parallel passages through the example of a young evangelist, Harry Moorhouse, of Manchester, a lad of only seventeen years, whom he met at Dublin during his first trip to England and Ireland, in 1867, and who was deeply learned in the language of Sacred Writ. The boyish preacher visited Chicago a few months later, and gave seven sermons from the text: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life," John iii.16; and the people with their Bibles in hand gladly followed him in his references from creation to the heavenly Jerusalem. Henceforth, Mr. Moody used constantly Cruden's Concordance and the compact Bible Text Book, issued by the American Tract Society, as invaluable aids to trace a single word or doctrine through the various books. He has answered the question, "How am I to know the Word of God?" as follows: "By studying it with the help of the Holy Ghost. As an American bishop said, not with the blue light of Presbyterianism, nor the red light of Methodism, nor the violet light of Episcopacy, but with the clear light of Calvary. We must study it on our knees in a teachable spirit. If we know our Bible, Satan will not have much power over us, and we will have the world under our feet. I think I have got the key to the study of the Bible: take it up topically. Take 'Love,' for instance, and spend a month in studying what the Bible says about love, from Genesis to Revelation. Then you will love everybody, whether they love you or not. In the same way take up 'Grace,' 'Faith,' 'Assurance,' 'Heaven,' and so on. When you study the Bible, be sure you hunt for something. Spend six months studying Genesis; it is the key to the whole book; it speaks of death, resurrection, judgment — it is the seed-plant of the whole Bible. Read the same chapter over and over and over again, and don't leave it until you have understood it. About the twenty-eighth time you have read a chapter you will see the Man Christ Jesus, who is on every page of Scripture. Here is another way: take up one word in a book, such as the word 'believe' of St. John's gospel. Every chapter but two speaks of believing. Look up the nineteen 'personal interviews' with Christ recorded in that gospel. Take the 'conversions' of the Bible. Take the seven 'blesseds,' and the seven 'overcomes' of Revelation. If you want to get the best book on 'assurance,' read 1 John iii., and the six things there worth 'knowing.' Take up the five 'precious things' of Peter, or the 'verilys' of John."
The year 1871 was scored in Mr. Moody's life with two memorable events. In June he met Mr. Ira D. Sankey, the sweet Gospel-singer, and soon united him to himself as a yokefellow in the ripening harvest-field; in October, Chicago was devastated by the conflagration which laid four square miles of buildings in ruins. The church of his heart, Farwell Hall, his cottage home, and the dwellings of most of his members, were all consumed to ashes. His family had to flee for their lives, and, as Mr. Moody said, he saved nothing but his reputation and his Bible. But this sifting of his faith in the furnace of affliction redoubled instead of diminishing his ardor. He at once set to work to relieve the wants of the destitute and homeless by aiding to collect and distribute supplies. He made a flying trip to the East, holding revival services in Philadelphia, Brooklyn, and elsewhere, and receiving contributions to rebuild a habitation for his congregation and school. He was thus enabled to begin a wooden Tabernacle on the old site, in size one hundred and nine feet by seventy-five; and by the free labor of his poor congregation, the structure of boards was finished in eight weeks. On the Sunday after, one thousand children were present, and its services were thronged. On week-days, it served as a storehouse of supplies and a congregational hall, where sewing-circles interchanged with services of prayer and praise, while a side room sheltered the family of the evangelist. The ceaseless duties of each Sunday are exhibited by this programme of the ordinary services:
Nine o'clock. The Lord's Supper. — Half-past Ten. Preaching by Mr. Moody. — After Service. Dinner in the classroom with the Teachers, and conversation on the Day's Lessons. — Three o'clock. Sunday-school, Mr. Moody superintending. — After School. Teachers' Prayer-Meeting, led by Mr. Moody. — Then Supper in the Class-room. — After Supper. Yokefellows' Prayer-Meeting. — Half-past Seven. Preaching by Mr. Moody. — After Service. Inquiry Meetings, lasting as long as there were any inquirers needing counsel.
These labors were their own abundant reward, for very many souls were permitted to be led by this loving, manly hand unto Him who is the way of eternal life. A second visit to England was made by Mr. Moody in the spring of 1872, for the purpose of attending the Evangelical Conference at Mildmay Park, London. In a brief stay, he preached almost a hundred times, and established a daily union prayer-meeting in that metropolis. He also spent some time with Mr. George Muller, the founder in faith of the famous orphan asylum at Bristol, which has been maintained wholly so many years by a sublime reliance upon the Lord, who has promised to fulfil every prayer offered to His honor by the follower of the meek and lowly Son of Man. He was thus brought into an intimate communion with the devout disciples known as Plymouth Brethren, and he learned to share their profound convictions of the approach of the second coming of Christ. Of this new light he has testified: "I have felt like working three times as hard ever since I came to understand that my Lord was coming back again. I look on this world as a wrecked vessel. God has given me a life-boat, and said to me, 'Moody, save all you can.' This world is getting darker and darker: its ruin is drawing nearer and nearer: if you have any friends on this wreck unsaved, you had better lose no time in getting them off." At that time he met Henry Varley, an evangelist who has since departed to his reward, and was impressed deeply by his remark: "It remains for the world to see what the Lord can do with a man wholly consecrated to Christ." He also overheard one Christian inquire of another concerning him, "Is this young man all O O?" And when asked, "What do you mean by O O?" reply, "Is he out and out for Christ?" "I tell you," Moody confessed later, "it burned down into my soul. It means a good deal to be O O for Christ."
A wrestling with the Spirit ensued, and was long continued before he enjoyed a new baptism and an entire consecration, in the sunshine of a faith that knew no shadow of doubt. He spoke of this struggle years later, in a prayer-meeting talk, in New York City, in 1876, saying: "About four years ago I got into a cold state. It did not seem as if there was any unction resting upon my ministry. For four long months God seemed to be just showing me myself. I found I was ambitious; I was not preaching for Christ; I was preaching for ambition. I found everything in my heart that ought not to be there. For four months a wrestling went on within me, and I was a miserable man. But after four months the anointing came. It came upon me as I was walking in the streets of New York. Many a time I have thought of it since I have been here. At last I had returned to God again, and I was wretched no longer. I almost prayed in my joy, 'O stay Thy hand!' I thought this earthen vessel would break. He filled me so full of the Spirit. If I have not been a different man since, I do not know myself. I think I have accomplished more in the last four years than in all the rest of my life. But O it was preceded by a wrestling and hard struggle! I think I had never else got out of this miserable selfishness. There was a time when I wanted to see my little vineyard blessed, and I could not get out of it; but I could work for the whole world now. I would like to go round the world and tell the perishing millions of a Saviour's love."
In the spring of 1873, Mr. Moody having obtained the consent of Mr. Sankey to be his companion, resolved to accept the invitation of three English gentlemen to visit the British Isles. His motive in this decision was, as he told an inquiring friend, "to win ten thousand souls to Christ." From the very start, the work was one of trustful, child-like faith. Preparations were made for the ocean voyage, wherein both evangelists were to take their wives and children; and yet, when the day came that they must set out from Chicago, Mr. Moody still lacked the money needed for their passage and expenses. Several hours before train time, however, his friend, John V. Farwell, who knew nothing of the emergency, put in his hand a cheek for five hundred dollars. So the Lord opened the way. Yet their daily living was still to be by faith, and not by sight, that they might constantly depend on Him whose hand is not shortened that He cannot save, and whose watchful care is upon all his children. These yoke-fellows had promised each other that they would accept no salary for their services from any person, committee, or society; neither allow any collections, nor engage in business ventures; but rely wholly on the strength of God. Accordingly, in this spirit, they set sail from New York on the 7th of June, 1873, and landed at Liverpool on the 17th. It was fitting that an anniversary of the Battle of Bunker Hill, falling within three years of the Centennial jubilee of peace and brotherhood, should witness the advent of these two Americans, whose souls were all aglow with love as carriers of the Gospel message to brethren of the British race, and whose labors in going about doing good were to become historic in Christian annals.