No one expects two highly talented people to get along together on the best of terms for an extended length of time. This is, unfortunately, true even in the religious world. And yet this is just what Moody and Sankey did. They were constantly with one another for almost thirty years and, as far as is known, no serious quarrel ever came between them. It is true that toward the end they were not seen together as much as before, that the term Moody-and-Sankey, became more of a tradition than a reality, but this does not mean that they parted, as has been reported. Sankey himself denied that rumor in very definite terms:
"It is said we parted," he declared; "but, no, we never parted until death parted us at Northfield."
Although alike in many ways, they had some characteristics diametrically opposed. Sankey had a sunny, yielding disposition; Moody was abrupt, dictatorial, determined. Sankey was careful about his dress; Moody was too busy to bother about such "unimportant things." Sankey was smooth, tactful; Moody was rough and blunt. Many men as unlike as these two cannot tolerate one another. But Moody and Sankey were the best of friends. What is the reason?
One of the things that helped keep them together was Moody’s confidence in picking men. The moment he saw a person he knew what was in him. This was shown over and over again. In one of his meetings he remarked that he disliked a certain usher and requested that his services terminate. Later it was discovered that this man, Charles Julse Guiteau was the one who lived to assassinate President Garfield. When Moody saw a man he liked and could use he asked him to "hitch" with him. It usually worked out all right. Moody believed in Sankey from the first time he saw him in Indianapolis, and that belief meant everything.
Moreover, Moody respected Sankey’s ability as a singer. From Major Whittle’s diary we take a note that illustrates this:
We went with him to take dinner with his Uncle Cyrus, over the Connecticut River, and as we were crossing the beautiful stream ... Bliss and Sankey sang together, "Only Waiting for the Boatman" and "There Is a Land of Pure Delight." Moody was helping the ferryman. We all thought the crossing was very slow. After the third or fourth song Sankey looked around and discovered Moody holding on to the wire and pulling back while the ferryman pulled forward, his object being to get in a good many songs, not only for his own enjoyment, but for the good of the ferryman, a boyhood friend in whose conversion he was interested.
On another occasion, Sankey was leading a discussion on singing in the church. When asked if he favored a large number of solos, he replied that he did not. Moody was in the audience, and when he heard this he stood up and said he favored a large number of solos when he had Sankey!
Although Mr. Moody himself, as George C. Stebbins has said, "was one of the unfortunates who have no sense of pitch or harmony," he recognized the value of singing and realized, as much as anyone else, that Sankey’s singing was one of the great drawing cards at his meetings.
This admiration was not one-sided. Sankey loved and believed in Moody with all the passion he possessed. He listened to his sermons day after day, week after week, and yet he apparently never got tired of them, even though he no doubt knew many of them by heart. Sankey always gave Moody the credit for the big crowds that came to their meetings.
In a letter from the South to his brother, Sankey wrote:
The old firm always draws the crowd. ... The best classes come to our meetings as they did not to Sam Jones.
This statement makes one feel that success had gone to his head, but this feeling is instantly relieved when we read further on:
Moody is more solid and we have larger crowds.
And so Sankey really gloried more in Moody than he did in himself.
Beyond all of this, of course, Moody and Sankey got along because they were really great men and did not have time for quarrels. If either of them knew a man who was working for the Lord they respected him, even though their theology differed widely.
One time Moody was asked to introduce Henry Ward Beecher to an audience gathered for a lecture. Moody’s immediate response was: "What, introduce Beecher? Not I. Ask me to black his boots, and I’ll gladly do it." Moody’s theology was altogether different from Beecher’s; Moody believed that the world was lost and that he should seek to save individuals, whereas the great Brooklyn preacher believed that the world was to be saved and that he should attempt to correct a corrupt society. Nevertheless, Moody admired him, loved him, and even asked him to go with him on an evangelistic tour!
It was this admiration for those who loved God, disregarding differences of opinion, that helped Moody and Sankey stay together as a team for so many years. But the answer to their success in this respect is not to be had simply from this fact. There were other contributing factors.
It is well known that Moody was a little dictatorial, that he dominated everyone, that commands always came from him. This trait may have irked Sankey, but if so, it never caused a breach in their friendship. Sankey, like R. A. Torrey, often mentions how, in order to get along, he did whatever Moody told him to do. But he was never upset by it. He had the utmost confidence in Moody’s decisions.
Too, Sankey knew how to get Moody to do what he wanted without asking him. One time at Northfield Sankey found a girl who was an exceptionally fine violinist. He wanted her to play a selection from the platform, but realizing that Moody was prejudiced against such a performance, he did not know what action to take. At last he found the solution. He asked her to play a composition written by May Whittle Moody, one of D. L.’s granddaughters! Moody listened and did not raise a single objection.
It must also be mentioned that both men knew how to laugh at one another, and at themselves. Sankey once told Moody how he had gone riding on a horse in the rain, holding an umbrella in one hand, when suddenly the horse took fright, plunged forward from under him, leaving him sitting in the mud holding the umbrella over his head. Moody repeated the story over and over again. Nothing pleased him more than to get a good joke on Sankey. Sankey likewise had many jokes he told on Moody. This sense of humor got them through many disturbing moments.
Above and beyond all this, both men were completely sold out to the task of soul-winning, and their lives were Spirit filled. If they were ever tempted to quarrel, they knew that it would hinder "the work," and they refused to do so. Wherever there were differences—and, like others who work together, they had many—they settled them in prayer.
From Sankey Still Sings by Charles Ludwig. Anderson, IN: The Warner Press, 1947.