What the World Owes to the Moody Movement
Sermon preached by A.C. Dixon, D.D. at The Moody Church in 1909.
In the year 1858 there began in Chicago a religious movement which became the greatest revival movement of the century, the abundant fruits of which can be seen today in every part of the world. It centered in D.L. Moody, who resolved in early life that he would let God show to the world what He could do with one man fully surrendered to His will.
The beginning was small. First, a group of ragged children in an abandoned freight car, which grew into a large Sunday school. Then a church with a large membership. Then the Moody Bible Institute, which has trained and sent out into all parts of the Earth fifty-two hundred Christian workers, four hundred and sixty of whom are on the foreign field.
Through the labors of Moody and Sankey and afterward of Torrey and Alexander, two great evangelistic movements, beginning in Chicago, have become world-wide, resulting in the conversion of millions. Growing out of Mr. Moody’s evangelistic work came the Northfield Bible Conference and many other Bible Conferences now blessing the land, the Northfield schools, a Y.M.C.A. building in almost every great city of Christendom and a vast amount of religious books and periodicals.
The secret of the success of this great movement can be found in the Scriptures, and John 3:7 expressed much: “Ye must be born again.” D.L. Moody was not a reformer or an educator, though he was in sympathy with reformatory work and Christian Education. He believed that regeneration is really at the basis of all true reformation and education. To him, however, the Gospel of Christ was the panacea for all the ills of the Earth. To save a man was better than to reform or educate him. Salvation, he believed, promoted temperance, made pure politics and gave a foundation for education fitting men for Earth and heaven.
Mr. Moody believed that the new birth is a sudden, instantaneous experience, the beginning of a lifetime of growth in Christ. He was fond of saying that Zaccheus was converted somewhere between the limb on the sycamore tree and the ground. Beginning to save a man a hundred years before he was born had no place in his theology, though he was willing enough to admit the influence of heredity. It was his constant purpose, therefore, to bring people to an immediate decision for Christ. In the large meeting which he held before the great Chicago fire he told the people to go home, get down on their knees and give themselves to Christ. Most of them never reached their homes, which that night went up in flame and smoke. And he resolved that he would never again urge people to go home and decide for Christ, but would seek to bring them to a decision then and there.
The Scripture, however, which gives the very heart of the Moody Movement is Mark 1:17, in connection with 1 Corinthians 9:22: “Come ye after Me and I will make you to become fishers of men.” “I am made all things to all men that I might by all means save some.”
D.L. Moody had a passion for souls. His heart was on fire with love for lost sinners and his enthusiasm kindled the fire in the hearts of others. He studied the Bible that he might win souls to Christ. He held Bible Conferences with the single purpose of preparing men and women to be better soul-winners. He invited a Keswick speaker to Northfield because he had learned that in his field of labor there had been several conversions the year following the blessing he had received at the Keswick convention.
D.L. Moody was pre-eminently an evangelist, and the consuming purpose of his life was “by all means to save some.” He could not be happy unless souls were saved. Christian joy he considered spurious unless it was associated with soul-winning. Holiness was a sham, if it did not result in winning souls. A man once told him that he had not sinned in several years, and his reply was: “How many souls have you led to Christ in that time?” The man was silent and Mr. Moody assured him that such holiness was not to his taste, because it was not of the Bible kind.
A third Scripture which explains another feature of the Moody Movement is Ephesians 5:18-19: “Be filled with the Spirit; speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” The hymnology of the church all down the ages is made up, for the most part, of praise and prayer to God. The chant in the Hebrew temple and the Synagogue was mostly praise and prayer in Scripture language. Such are some of our most popular hymns like “Jesus Lover of My Soul,” “Rock of Ages,” Come, Thou Almighty King.” They are full of Gospel truth in the form of praise and prayer to God and they will never wear out. Many of them will appropriate in heaven. But it remained for the Moody Movement to respond to the spirit of the text in singing directly to the people. It gave to the world a phrase “Gospel Song,” which means a song written for the purpose of carrying the Gospel into the hearts of the hearers.
The fourth Scripture which still further defines the Moody Movement is Matthew 23:10: “One is your Master, even Christ,” in connection with 1 Corinthians 12:5: “There are differences of administration, but the same Lord.”
God used D.L. Moody to unify evangelical Christianity more than any other man of the nineteenth century. Before he went to England the Church of England and the nonconformists were like the Jews and Samaritans, having little if any dealings with each other. Before he left England hundreds of them were in beautiful Christian harmony working together for the salvation of the lost. Mr. Moody used his genius for organization, not in the founding of a new denomination, which he might have done, but in bringing together all denominations for the evangelization of the people. His creed was, like that of the Apostle Paul, “Christ and Him crucified.” And to every one who stood with him under the blood, trusting, loving and worshiping his Saviour and Lord, he gave the hand of fellowship.