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What Mean These Stones?

What Mean These Stones? poster

The Dedicatory Sermon of The Moody Church

It would appear that almost from the beginning of history man has perpetuated the memory of his heroes and his epoch-making events by piling together stones. We can trace the custom in the Bible as far back as Genesis twenty-eight. You will remember that we find recorded there the story of Jacob’s wonderful vision of God in which God promised divine protection and provision. Jacob took the stones of that place and made a pillar, and anointing it with oil he called the name of it Bethel—the house of God. That was indeed a worthy idea. To Jacob that spot would evermore be sacred. It was the place where he met God and he did not wish to lose any part of the impression of so memorable an event.

The monument spoken of in the text was erected by Joshua and his hosts at Gilgal on the banks of the Jordan to commemorate the great deliverances God had wrought for His people Israel. They piled together stones not only because they remembered the goodness and mercy of Jehovah, but lest they and their children should forget.

So we, actuated by similar motives, have built a monument with which is associated hallowed memories and a history that is soul-thrilling and God-glorifying. In the years to come when men ask, “What mean these stones?” there will be a story to tell—a story of love and grace, a story of divine power and faithfulness, a story that will exalt our precious Lord as the Saviour of all who believe.

A Memorial to One of Chicago’s Great Men

First of all, the building is to stand as a memorial to one of Chicago’s greatest citizens.

A few years ago one of the leading morning papers carried an editorial entitled “Chicago’s Most Notable Citizen,” and the man of whom it spoke was D.L. Moody. No other has ever succeeded in making Chicago so well and so favorably known as did that dear servant of God. But Mr. Moody was not provincial. He was not only Chicago’s most famous citizen, but one of the most widely-known men in the United States.

Professor Henry Drummond, the distinguished British scientist and theologian, in an article contributed to McClure’s Magazine a few years ago, stated:

Probably America possesses no more extraordinary personality. Not even among the most brilliant of her sons has any one rendered more stupendous or more enduring service to his country or his time. Whether estimates by the moral qualities which go to the making up of his personal character, or the extent to which he has impressed these on whole communities of men on both sides of the Atlantic, there is perhaps no more truly great man living than D.L. Moody.”

Dr. John R. Mott wrote an article which appeared in the American Magazine about two years ago entitled “The Seven Greatest Men That I Have Known” in which he gave Mr. Moody first place.

Moody’s ministry and vision were world-wide. He belonged to the whole human family. “His parish,” as Wesley said, “was the world.”

Last year in the British Isles they celebrated the Moody and Sankey Jubilee. For months the religious press carried editorials and leading articles on the ministry of this man who had turned hundreds of thousands from sin to the Saviour and “whose fruit abides after many days.”

Evangelist and Educator

D.L. Moody was more than an evangelist; he was an educator—an educator of the most practical and helpful kind.

It has often been stated that he was an uneducated man, but that is surely far from fact unless the term is used in the narrowest and most technical sense of the word. It is true that Moody was a man of one book, but oh, what a Book! “Profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” Moody surely believed that statement and he himself was the best kind of demonstration of the accuracy of it.

The day following his death the Chicago Tribune published a special article, part of which I would quote here:

From the time when he came to Chicago in 1856, a young man of nineteen—and crude and raw enough at that—he was an educator. The first thing he did was to begin to teach. Education in its way was then, as since then, the passion of his life. He began where he could and which whom he could. He began with the little ragamuffins on the street. He could not bear to think of them as having no other education than that which they were getting on the street. And if at the beginning he did not feel himself competent to teach them much, he got others to do the teaching while he created and managed the school. And that, in effect, is what he had been doing as an educator ever since.

As an evangelist his preaching was never mere appeal and exhortation. He always aimed to be instructive. In a supreme kind of way he took the Bible as his text book. As a student he pored over it day and night. As an educator he taught it, in season and out of season. Nor did he disdain to get helpful ideas or to utilize the most pat and effective forms of statement from whatever sources. What the Bible, as he felt it, had been as a power in his own personal education he had an irresistible desire to communicate to others.

Then Mr. Moody, all through his career as an evangelist, in this country and Great Britain, was though without consciously intending it, an educator of other evangelists, and in fact of the ministry generally. In certain respects of an altogether vital importance he taught them how to preach. He taught them to get off their stilts, to quit their cant, to translate what they learned out of books into the language and modes of thought of the common people.”

The Founder of Schools

Because he knew of no school that opened its doors to the class of men and women he desired to train, nor any school that offered training such as he proposed to give, he established the Northfield Schools, now directed by his son, Mr. W.R. Moody. Thousands of deserving men and women, lacking the means to secure education, have been admitted there and trained mentally and spiritually.

Then the Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, the largest school of its kind in the world and the model after which hundreds of others have been formed, was founded in 1886. Speaking of this institution Mr. Moody said, “It seems to me this is the largest thing I have ever undertaken and that it is going to accomplish more than anything I have ever yet been permitted to do.” Little did he dream how much that school was going to accomplish!

Up to the present there have been 54,643 students enrolled there. Of that number 1,300 have gone as missionaries to 69 foreign fields and 995 of them are still actively engaged in missionary work on the field, working under 57 societies and missionary boards. More than 1,400 students of the Moody Bible Institute are now pastors of churches. Yes, D.L. Moody was an educator of the kind that blesses the whole world!


But Moody was more—he was a philanthropist.

From Association Men, organ of the Y.M.C.A., I quote the following:

No man had such a tremendous personal influence on the Association movement. He made the biggest gifts of any to the International Committee for years. He secured millions of dollars for religious and philanthropic enterprises, including the erection of many Y.M.C.A buildings, and the clearing of the debts from many more. For some years after his return from Great Britain in 1875 his annual gift to the treasury of the International Association was several times larger than that of any other donor. His financial assistance to the Y.M.C.A.’s of Brooklyn, New York, Philadelphia, Richmond, Albany, Reading, Williamsport, Scranton, St. Louis, Chicago, Denver, San Francisco and other American cities added more than $1,000,000.00 to the permanent property funds of the Association.”

Mr. Moody could have been an immensely wealthy man had he accepted hymn book royalties which accrued to his personal account to the amount of over $1,500,000.00. But lest it be said that he preached the gospel for money he appointed three Christian business men as trustees of that fund and it was by them distributed along various lines of Christian work throughout this country.

Dr. Robert E. Spear came near the mark when he said, “Moody was a combination of General Grant and John B. Gough and Abraham Lincoln and William E. Dodge and Charles Hadden Spurgeon and a few more, but he was not any of them. He was just his own great self, a torrent of love and power, set to sweep men home unto God.”

Reasons for Building This Church

It is to this great servant of God and lover of his fellow-men that we have erected this memorial church. We have two strong reasons for doing so.

First, Chicago is the logical place for Moody’s monument. It was here that he began his ministry and here he learned the secret of reaching men.

Second, this church was the first of all the institutions founded by him.

This building shall ever stand as a testimony to the power of the gospel of God’s grace. The ministry of this church for over sixty years is an evidence of the fact that “the gospel is the power of God unto salvation.” Week by week, through all these years, the same old story has been told—the story of redeeming love. The grace of Christ has been presented persistently and scarcely one week has passed in which sinners have not been turned from darkness to light. The Moody Church has never changed its message or its methods since the days of its honored founder.

Sixty-five years ago in a deserted saloon, near what was then known as the Northside Market, this work began. First there was a little Sunday-school of bare-footed, bare-headed and dirty urchins in a district noted for bad women and worse men.

Glimpses of Moody

In a Sunday-school convention held in Canada, Mr. Reynolds of Peoria, Illinois, the secretary of the International Sunday-school committee, related the following incident:

The first time I ever saw him was in a little old shanty that had been abandoned by a saloon keeper. Mr. Moody had got the place to hold a meeting 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 of the words he could not make 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; and I want you to pray for me.’ I have never ceased from that day to this, morning and night, 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 when I look back and see what Mr. Moody was thirteen years ago, and what he is under God today—shaking Scotland to its very center, and reaching now over to Ireland. This last time I heard from him, his injunction was, ‘Pray for me every day; pray now that God will keep me humble.’”

The next picture is associated with the late Mr. J.V. Farwell who was Moody’s strong friend throughout the years. Mr. Moody applied to this brother for financial help for his work, and after securing the money he asked him if he were engaged in any personal work for Christ. On finding him not fully occupied, he invited him over to his mission Sunday-school.

The next Sunday Mr. Farwell appeared as a visitor at the North Market school. The scene was a new one. All his previous Sunday-school notions were put to flight. That riotous crowd seemed to be following the example of the Israelites in the time of the Judges, with one essential difference—namely, that each one was doing what was wrong in his own eyes, with the evident purpose of mischievous enjoyment. The seats had not yet arrived. The school was leaning up against the walls, and scattered over the floor in every-varying forms, like the figures in the kaleidoscope; jumping, turning somersaults, sparring, whistling, talking out loud, saying, “Papers!” “Black your boots!” “Have a shine, mister?”—from which state of confusion they were occasionally rescued by a Scripture reading from Mr. Stillson, or a song from Mr. Trudeau, or a speech from Mr. Moody; only to relapse again into clamour and uproar, before the speaker or singer was fairly through. The emotions of Mr. Farwell, on being introduced to make a speech, were vivid rather than pleasing. He ventured a few words, and only a few, lest he should weary the patience of his audience. But what was his horror, at the close of his remarks, to hear himself nominated by Moody as superintendent of the North Market Mission Sunday-school! Before he could object, the school had elected him with a deafening hurrah.

Many honors have fallen to that gentleman since that day; and none of them ever came more unexpectedly, were bestowed more heartily, or brought with them more embarrassment; but he accepted the office to which he was thus suddenly called, and entered at once upon its duties, which for more than six years he faithfully continued to perform.

The Crowning Glory

It is a long step from the scene in the old Market Hall to the one here today. Our church now has a membership of 3,436, and 88 of our members are missionaries in foreign lands. Of this number the church supports 67. During the last fiscal year the offerings for foreign missions were more than $36,000.00,—and this in the face of the fact that the church has given so sacrificially to the erection of this building.

The Meaning of These Stones

Again we ask the question, “What mean these stones?” They mean that there is a great Protestant church in the city of Chicago where rich and poor alike are ever welcome and where in spirit and in truth they can worship the God who is the maker of us all. They mean also that this church is to be a base from which heralds of the cross will be sent forth in greater numbers to the ends of the earth to tell the story of redeeming grace. With these larger facilities we feel greater responsibility for sending the gospel to all who have never heard it.

In the years to come, if our Lord tarry, may the story of these stones remain unchanged. May no voice ever be heard in this pulpit that will suggest a question of the inspiration of the Bible or of the authority and authenticity of God’s Word. For should such a thing happen, as it has happened in other places, then we may write over this pulpit and over the doors of this church, “Ichabod”—the glory is departed.

A Personal Appeal

When D.L. Moody was a young man he heard the late Henry Varley say, “The world has yet to see what God can do with one who is entirely consecrated to him.” And Mr. Moody said in his heart before God, “I will be that man!”

This morning there are before me hundreds of young people. Many of you are looking forward to your life’s work. I say to you that I believe God is still looking for men who are entirely consecrated to Him and that He is still waiting to show what He can do through them. “The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth to show himself strong in the behalf of those whose hearts are perfect toward Him.”

As we bow before Him now in prayer I want you to say:

Take my life and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.


(A Part of the Dedicatory Service at The Moody Church November 8, 1925)

Pastor: Having been prospered by the good hand of our God, and enabled by His grace and power to complete this house of worship to be used for the glory of His Name, we will now in His holy presence dedicate the building to Him.

To the honor of Jesus Christ, His Son, our Lord and Saviour;

To the praise of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, source of light and life.

Officials (led by Elder Thomas E. Stephens): We, the officers of this church and congregation, recognizing that there has been committed to us a sacred trust, relying upon God for wisdom and strength, do solemnly covenant together, the Lord being our Helper, to sacredly guard, uphold and perpetuate the scriptural doctrines and principles upon which this church was founded and by which it has been maintained through all its history down to the present day; that we will study the peace and unity of this church to the end that this house may ever serve for the assembling together of the rich and the poor for the worship of Him Who is the Maker of us all; for the preaching of the Word of God in its fullness; and for the proclamation of our Lord Jesus Christ as the only Saviour of men.

Pastor: Holy, blessed and glorious Trinity; three Persons and one God.

Congregation responding:
To Thee we dedicate this house.

Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; our Father which art in heaven:
To Thee we dedicate this house.

Son of God, the only begotten of the Father, Head of the body which is the church; Head over all things to the church; Prophet, Priest and King; whose glorious appearing shall be to all people.
To Thee we dedicate this house.

For comfort to those who mourn; for strength to those who are tempted; for the instruction and training of children and youth; for the sending forth of the gospel to the uttermost parts of the earth:
We dedicate this house.
to the memory of Thy faithful servant, Dwight Lyman Moody:
We dedicate this house. And we do also give ourselves individually and unreservedly to Thee.

Arise, O Lord, into Thy rest, Thou and the ark of Thy strength. Let Thy priests be clothed with righteousness, and let Thy people shout for joy. Put Thy Name in this place. Let Thine eyes be open toward it; and hearken unto the supplications of Thy people when they pray in this place, and hear Thou in heaven, Thy dwelling place, and when Thou hearest, forgive.