Dwight L. Moody: A Life of Compassion and Transformation
Dwight L. Moody, born on February 5, 1837, faced a challenging childhood marked by the absence of a father, who had passed away when he was just four years old. Moody’s upbringing was modest, and some of his neighbors doubted his mother’s ability to raise seven boys without a father figure, predicting a bleak future that might lead them to jail. However, Dwight Moody’s life would go on to prove these skeptics wrong, and he would later emphasize the profound influence of his mother, stating that if everyone had a mother like his, jails would be unnecessary.
Moody’s mother, despite her own grief at her husband’s passing, resolved to raise her children in the faith. She demonstrated unwavering compassion by sharing their meager food with beggars. This compassion left a lasting impression on young Dwight, shaping his perspective on caring for the less fortunate.
The family’s financial struggles were evident when the boys had to carry their shoes and socks to church to preserve them. Despite his lack of faith at that time, Moody started recruiting other children to accompany him to church.
At the age of 17, Moody’s education was minimal, and he moved to Boston with dreams of amassing wealth. He found a job selling shoes and stumbled upon a Sunday School class led by Edward Kimball. This providential encounter marked the beginning of Moody’s spiritual transformation. Kimball gave Moody a Bible and fervently prayed for his salvation.
Overcoming his initial nervousness, Kimball visited Moody at the shoe store to share the message of salvation. This pivotal moment sparked a revival that extended across two continents, resulting in over a million souls finding faith. This event underscored the importance of seizing every opportunity for evangelism, as the person you reach might become another D.L. Moody.
Moody’s own recounting of his conversion illustrates the profound change in his life. He shifted from working to earn salvation to working because of the salvation he had found, experiencing newfound joy and appreciation for the world around him.
Moody’s journey continued as he relocated to Chicago at the age of 19. There, he began attending church services, and the large number of visitors he attracted eventually led him to rent multiple pews in the church. However, it was his encounters with the impoverished children in Chicago’s slums that truly stirred his heart to action. Joining another Sunday school, he volunteered to recruit his own pupils, bringing in 18 underprivileged children from the streets.
Two years later, in 1858, Moody established his own Sunday School in an abandoned tavern. The mayor of Chicago, recognizing the dire need to address the plight of the city’s children, provided him with a large building rent-free. Moody’s unique approach allowed children to attend any class they wished, ensuring that the best teachers had the largest number of students.
To help these children escape poverty, violence, and ignorance, Moody empowered older children with responsibilities such as maintaining order in the Sunday School. These “Moody’s bodyguards” might have been rough around the edges, but their loyalty and transformation were evident as they embraced their newfound sense of purpose.
One notable incident involved a new boy entering Sunday School wearing his cap, defying the etiquette Moody had tried to instill. One of the “bodyguards” responded with a swift and unexpected blow between the eyes, teaching the new boy a lesson in manners. This incident illustrated their need for refinement but also their commitment to change.
Moody’s determination to reach lost souls intensified, leading him to become a personal soul winner. He began sharing the message of salvation not only within the confines of the Sunday School but also on the streets and in homes. This shift was sparked by a pivotal event involving a class of young ladies who initially laughed at his teaching. When their teacher fell ill, Moody and the teacher went to visit the girls, resulting in a powerful outpouring of emotion and conversions.
Moody’s transformational journey reached a critical juncture at the age of 23 when he decided to give up his successful business career. He had amassed wealth but found that his newfound faith made the pursuit of riches distasteful. His passion had shifted towards serving the Lord full-time.
The Sunday School he established continued to grow, eventually evolving into the largest church in Chicago, attracting not only children but also parents. The church’s services became a beacon of hope, with gatherings not limited to Sundays but occurring almost nightly due to the overwhelming interest.
Moody faced numerous challenges, including criticism and opposition from those who doubted his abilities. One critic even questioned his grammar, to which Moody humbly replied that he was doing his best with what he had, challenging his critic to use his grammar skills for the Lord’s work.
Moody’s success in his Sunday School drew invitations to speak about his methods and experiences. In 1876, he embarked on a journey to Great Britain to study their Christian work methods. He was particularly inspired by the preaching of Charles Spurgeon and the philanthropic work of George Mueller.
In Ireland, Moody encountered Henry Varley, an evangelist who uttered words that left an indelible mark on Moody’s heart. Varley’s statement, “The world has yet to see what God will do with and for and through and in and by the man who is fully consecrated to Him,” ignited Moody’s determination to be that man.
During his time in England, Moody met Henry Moorehouse, the “boy preacher,” who focused on the love of God in his messages. This encounter reshaped Moody’s preaching style, shifting his emphasis from a punitive view of God to one centered on God’s love. Moody began preaching with tears of compassion, a transformation that deeply impacted his audience.
In 1871, two ladies in Moody’s church began praying for him, believing he needed the filling of the Holy Spirit. Moody, initially resistant, eventually realized the depth of his need for spiritual empowerment. His encounter with God in New York City marked a turning point, filling him with such love and power that he could not contain it. Moody’s ministry experienced a profound transformation, resulting in numerous conversions.
Moody’s influence extended to revival campaigns in Great Britain, where thousands gathered to hear his message. In York, the meetings lasted five weeks, drawing packed venues and countless souls finding faith. Glasgow, Edinburgh, and other cities experienced revival on an unprecedented scale, not seen since the days of George Whitefield and John Wesley.
The impact of Moody’s work was not limited to adults. In Liverpool, over 14,000 children attended his children’s meetings. Moody’s realization that saving a child meant saving a lifetime dedicated to the Lord further deepened his commitment to children’s ministry.
Moody’s work in London was especially remarkable. He held an astounding 285 services, with an average daily attendance of 21,000 people. This remarkable feat, given the absence of modern amplification, stirred revival both among Christians and the lost. His efforts led seven young students, known as the “Cambridge Seven,” to dedicate themselves to foreign missionary work, including C.T. Studd.
Upon returning to the U.S., Moody and his song leader, Ira Sankey, conducted successful campaigns in major cities, relying on the Holy Spirit for soul-saving and revival. Moody also dedicated time to building two Bible schools in Chicago and Northfield, Massachusetts.
D.L. Moody continued to preach until his passing in 1899, even when his health deteriorated. His final sermon in Kansas City, delivered while he was seriously ill, saw a multitude of souls saved.
In his last moments, as he transitioned from this life to the next, Moody experienced a glimpse of heaven. His faith and compassion left an enduring legacy. Known for his tears and compassion in every sermon, Moody’s prayer was to “cheat millions into heaven.” He fulfilled this prayer as God used him to reach countless souls with the transformative message of God’s love.
D.L. Moody‘s life serves as a timeless reminder of the power of compassion, the transformation that faith can bring, and the enduring impact one person can have when fully consecrated to God’s work. His legacy continues to inspire and challenge believers to seek the filling of the Holy Spirit and to tirelessly share the message of God’s love with the world.