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Dwight Lyman Moody: Evangelist

D. L. MoodyDwight Lyman Moody: Evangelist; born at Northfield, Massachusetts, [United States], February 5, 1837; died there December 22, 1899. He was the sixth of the nine children of Edwin and Betsy Moody (née Holton). His father, who was a mason, died in 1841 (aged 41) and the family was in very straitened circumstances for years. His mother died in 1895, aged ninety. Moody received his first religious impressions in the village Unitarian church and his first missionary work was in getting pupils for its Sunday-school, which he attended. His schooling was carried only as far as the district school could take him, and while a young boy he had to earn his living. In 1854 he resolved to try his fortunes in Boston, and there was hired by his uncle, Samuel Holton, as a clerk in his boot and shoe store. One of the conditions of his engagement was that he should regularly attend his uncle's church, the Mount Vernon (Orthodox) Congregational Church, and also its Sunday-school. This promise he faithfully kept and was so much impressed by the truths he heard taught that in 1855 he applied for admission into the church. But his examination was not considered satisfactory and his application was held over for a year when he was thought to have made sufficient attainments in theology for church membership. In September 1856, he went to Chicago and quickly found a more lucrative position than his uncle could offer him, and made a reputation as a salesman and traveler in the shoe trade. He also accumulated $7,000 toward the $100,000 upon which he had set his heart. But while diligent in his business and uncommonly successful he became absorbed more and more in religious work. His energies were first spent upon the Sunday-school as teacher, as gatherer-in of new pupils, and most unpromising ones, who under his instruction improved marvelously, and then as superintendent of the North Market Hall Sunday-school which he built up until it had a membership of 1,500 and out of it in 1863 the Illinois Street Church was formed. He thus was well known in the state as a Sunday-school worker. From the time of his coming to Chicago he had entered heartily into the work of the Young Men's Christian Association, and he raised a huge part of the money for its building, not once but twice, for the first was burned in 1867, and the second in 1871. In 1861 he gave up business and was an independent city missionary, then agent of the Christian Commission in the Civil War and after that again in Sunday-school work and the secretary of the Chicago Young Men's Christian Association. But as yet he had done nothing to give him international fame.

In 1867 he made a visit to Great Britain on account of his wife's health -- he had married in 1862. He made some valuable acquaintances and did a little evangelistic work. One of his converts was John Kenneth Mackenzie. In 1872 he was again in Great Britain, held numerous meetings and won the esteem of prominent Evangelicals. From these he received an invitation to return for general revival work. He came the next year, bringing with him Ira David Sankey, who was henceforth to be linked with him in fame as a revivalist. They landed at Liverpool on June 17, 1873, and held their first services in York. Moody's downright preaching and Sankey's simple but soul stirring singing won attention, and as they passed from city to city they were heard by great crowds. They spent two years in this arduous labor, and then returned to America. Their fame was now in all the churches and invitations poured in upon them to do at home what they had done abroad, so they repeated these services and duplicated their successes, and that in all parts of the country. In 1881 and again in 1891 and 1892 they were in the United Kingdom. One of their most loyal supporters was Henry Drummond, who owed to them the quickening of his religious life in 1874.

In 1892 Moody by invitation of friends made a brief visit to the Holy Land. It was on his return to London that autumn that he first knew of the heart difficulty which ultimately caused his death. It may have been this knowledge that induced him during his remaining years to seek rather to deepen the spiritual life of professing Christians through church services of the ordinary quiet type, than to address the enormous miscellaneous crowds in all kinds of buildings as he did in earlier days. It was while holding services in Kansas City, Missouri, on November 16, 1899, that he broke down, and, although he was able to reach home, he was fatally stricken and soon after died.

Moody had "consecrated common sense." He was honest, preached a Calvinistic creed which he accepted with all his heart, and was master of an effective style. His sermons and shorter addresses abound in personal allusions, in shrewd remarks and home thrusts. He had a hatred of shams and scant respect for persons who had only place to recommend them. He was often abrupt, sometimes brisk. He had no polish, small education, but he knew the English Bible and accepted it literally. He was fond of treating Bible characters very familiarly and enlivening his sermons by imaginary conversations with and between them. But that he was truly bent upon promoting the kingdom of God by the ways he thought most helpful there is no doubt. Like other great revivalists he had much praise which was undesirable, but he never lost his head. He also never allowed excitement to carry his audiences off their feet. For sanity, sincerity, spirituality, and success Moody goes into the very first rank of revival preachers.

During Moody's and Sankey's mission at Newcastle, England, in 1873, the first form of the familiar hymn-book which bears their name appeared in response to the necessity of having a book which was adapted to their needs. This book was originally little better than a small pamphlet, but it was enlarged and has taken on various shapes and had varied contents while preserving its main features. The sale of the book in its different forms has been enormous. Up to 1900, more than a million and a quarter of dollars had been paid its compilers in royalties. Of his share in this money Moody made noble use, and thus opened a chapter in his life which is less known to the public, but will have more permanent interest than his preaching. For with it he founded, or helped to found, the chain of educational institutions which does not bear his name but which is his greatest monument. The first was the Northfield Seminary for Young Women, erected and carried on in his native town. It dates from 1879. This is a school which trains girls for college, if they go so far, but in any case gives them good instruction permeated with religion. All the work of the house is done by the students. In 1881 Mount Hermon School for Young Men was started. The two schools are only a few miles apart. The students are taken at very low rates, combine manual training with the usual school courses, and are under strong religious influences, The Bible Institute for Home and Foreign Missions in Chicago [now Moody Bible Institute], open to both sexes, is another of the educational aids which owe their origin to him. The Students' Conferences and the Northfield Christian Workers' Conference, both of which meet annually at Northfield, were inaugurated by him. They have exerted a great influence, and of a very sane and thoughtful type.

In church connection Moody belonged to the independent Chicago Avenue Church. In his activities he belonged to the Church universal.

Bibliography: The principal biography is by his son, W. R. Moody, Now York, 1900. Others are by R. Drummond, New York, 1900; J. S. Ogilvie, ib. 1900; and A. W. Williams, Philadelphia 1900. Phases of Moody's life and work are treated in: T. S. J., D L. Moody at Home, New York, 1886; H. M. Wharton, A Month with Moody in Chicago, Baltimore, 1894; H. B. Hartsler, Moody in Chicago, New York, 1894.

From The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge... New York: Funk and Wagnalls Company, 1910.

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