Dwight Lyman Moody

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DL Moody

Dwight Lyman Moody (1837 - 1899) was an American evangelist and publisher. He founded the Moody Church, Northfield School and Mount Hermon School in Massachusetts (now the Northfield Mount Hermon School), the Moody Bible Institute and Moody Publishers.


Dwight Moody was born in Northfield, Massachusetts to a large family. His father, a small farmer and stone mason, was an alcoholic and died at the age of 41 when Moody was four years old. He had, at that time, five older brothers and a younger sister, with an additional twin brother and sister born one month after his father's death. His mother struggled to support the family, but some of her children, including Dwight, had to be sent off to work for their room and board. Throughout this time, she continued to send them to church. Together with his eight siblings he was raised in the Unitarian church. His oldest brother ran away and was never heard from by the family again.

When Moody turned 17, he moved to Boston to work in his uncle's shoe store. One of his uncle's requirements was that Moody attend the Congregational Church of Mount Vernon where Dr. Edward Norris Kirk was pastor. In April 1855 Moody converted to evangelical Christianity when his teacher talked to him about how much God loved him. His conversion sparked the start of his career as an evangelist. However his first application for church membership, in May 1855, was rejected. He was not received as a church member until May 4, 1856. As his teacher, Mr. Edward Kimball, 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.

Moody moved to Chicago, Illinois in September 1856, where he joined the Plymouth Congregational Church, and began to take an active part in the prayer meetings. In the spring of 1857 he began to minister to the welfare of the sailors in Chicago's port, then gamblers and thieves in the saloons. A contemporary witness recalls these days:

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.'

His work led to the largest Sunday School of his time. As a result of his tireless labor, within a year the average attendance at his school was 650, while 60 volunteers from various churches served as teachers. It became so well known that the just-elected President Lincoln visited and spoke at a Sunday School meeting on November 25, 1860.

After the Civil War started, he was involved with the U.S. Christian Commission of the YMCA, and paid nine visits to the battle-front, being present among the Union soldiers after the conflicts of Shiloh, Pittsburgh Landing, and Murfreesboro, and ultimately entered Richmond with the army of General Grant. He married Miss Emma C. Revell, on August 28, 1862, with whom he had a daughter and a son.

The growing Sunday school congregation needed a permanent home, so Moody started a church in Chicago, the Illinois Street Church.

In June 1871 Moody met Ira D. Sankey, the Gospel singer, with whom he soon partnered. In October the Great Chicago Fire destroyed his church, his home, and the dwellings of most of his members. His family had to flee for their lives, and, as Mr. Moody said, he saved nothing but his reputation and his Bible. His church was rebuilt within three months at a near-by location as the Chicago Avenue Church. His lay follower William Eugene Blackstone was a prominent American Zionist.

It was while on a trip to England in 1872 that he became well known as an evangelist. He preached almost a hundred times and came into communion with the Plymouth Brethren. His preaching had a great impact within Britain, Scotland and Ireland. On several occasions he filled stadiums of 2,000 to 4,000 capacity. In the Botanic Gardens Palace, a meeting had between 15,000 to 30,000 people.

This turnout continued throughout 1874 and 1875, with crowds of thousands at all of his meetings. During his visit to Scotland he was helped and encouraged by Andrew A. Bonar. The famous London Baptist preacher, Charles Spurgeon invited him to speak and promoted him as well. When he returned to the United States, crowds of 12,000 to 20,000 were just as common as in England. President Grant and some of his cabinet attended a meeting on January 19, 1876. His evangelistic meetings were held from Boston to New York, throughout New England and as far as San Francisco, and other West coast towns from Vancouver to San Diego.

Moody aided in the work of cross-cultural evangelism by promoting "The Wordless Book", a teaching tool that had been invented by Charles Spurgeon in 1866. In 1875 he added a fourth color to the design of the three-color evangelistic device: gold - to "represent heaven". This "book" has been and is still used to teach uncounted thousands of illiterate people - young and old - around the globe about the Gospel message

Moody visited Britain with Ira D. Sankey, with Moody acting as preacher and Sankey singing. Together they published books of Christian hymns. In 1883 they visited Edinburgh and raised £10,000 for the building of a new home for the Carrubbers Close Mission. Moody later preached at the laying of the foundation stone for what is one of the few buildings on the Royal Mile which continues to be used for its original purpose and is now called the Carrubbers Christian Centre.

Moody greatly influenced the cause of cross-cultural Christian missions after he met the pioneer missionary to China, Hudson Taylor. He actively supported the China Inland Mission and encouraged many of his congregation to volunteer for service overseas.

He preached his last sermon on November 16, 1899. R. A. Torrey succeeded Moody as president of the Moody Bible Institute. Ten years after his death, the Chicago Avenue Church was renamed The Moody Church in his honor.



D.L. Moody, talking about his death

Some day you will read in the papers that D.L. Moody, of East Northfield, is dead.
Don't you believe a word of it!
At that moment I shall be more alive than I am now, I shall have gone up higher, that is all
Out of this old clay tenement into a house that is immortal -- a body that death cannot touch
That sin cannot taint; a body fashioned like unto His glorious body.
I was born of the flesh in 1837.
I was born of the Spirit in 1856.
That which is born of the flesh may die.
That which is born of the Spirit will live forever.

D.L. Moody defending his positive sermons and lack of mention of hell

Christ comes to bless. He does not come to demand


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