D. L. Moody: The Prince of Evangelists

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His Conversion
D. L. Moody, the famous Evangelist, when eighteen years of age, was a boot salesman in his uncle’s store in Boston. His Sunday School teacher was a Mr. Kimball, and he had set his heart on winning the young man for Christ. After praying about the matter, he arranged to visit him at the boot store. “I was determined,” to use his own words, “to speak to him about Christ and about his soul, and started down to Holton’s boot store. When I was nearly there I began to wonder whether I ought to go in just then during business hours. I thought my call might embarrass the boy, and that when I went away the other clerks would ask who I was, and taunt him with my efforts in trying to make him a good boy. In the meantime I had passed the store, and, discovering this, I determined to make a dash for it, and have it over at once. I found him in the back part of the building wrapping up shoes. I went up to him at once, and putting my hand on his shoulder, I made what I felt afterwards was a very weak plea for Christ. I don’t know just what words I used, nor could Mr. Moody tell. I simply told him of Christ’s love for him, and the love Christ wanted in return. That was all there was. It seemed the young man was just ready for the light that then broke upon him, and there in the back of that store in Boston, D. L. Moody gave himself and his life to Christ.”

Forty years afterwards, when preaching in Boston, Mr. Moody himself thus described the effect of his conversion upon his life: “I can almost throw a stone from Tremont Temple to the spot where I found God forty years ago. I wish I could do something to lead some of you young men to that same God. He has been a million times better to me than I have been to Him. I remember the morning on which I came out of my room after I had first trusted Christ. I thought the sun shone a good deal brighter than it ever had before. I thought that it was just smiling upon me, and as I walked out upon Boston Common and heard the birds singing in the trees, I thought they were all singing a song to me. Do you know? I fell in love with the birds. I had never cared for them before. It seemed to me that I was in love with all creation. I had not a bitter feeling against any man and I was ready to take all men to my heart. If a man has not the love of God shed abroad in his heart he has not yet been regenerated.”

A Nearly Fatal Voyage
On November 23, 1892, D. L Moody and his sons boarded the ocean liner Spree at Southampton, England. Moody had just finished revival meetings in London, including eight days of services in Spurgeon’s Tabernacle, and now he was bound for New York. Foremost in his mind, besides seeing his family and students again, was the great campaign he was planning for the Chicago World’s Exhibition the following year.

On the third morning of the trip, passengers were startled by a loud crash and a shock going through the ship. Will hurried out to the deck. He quickly returned to say that the shaft of the vessel was broken. “The ship’s sinking, Father,” he said.

The disabled ship, carrying hundreds of passengers, drifted helplessly away from the sea lanes. The vessel was taking on so much water that its pumps were useless. The crew prepared lifeboats and provisions, but they realized the small boats would soon perish in the rough seas. So they mustered passengers into a main saloon and waited, hoping to be discovered by a passing vessel.

On the second evening of their torturous wait, Moody led a prayer service that calmed many of the passengers, including himself. Although he was sure of heaven, the thought of his work ending and of never again seeing his family had unsettled him.

One biographer includes another angle to the incident. Prior to the trip, a doctor had found irregularities in Moody’s heart and urged him to ease his schedule; if Moody did not, he would die early. Moody determined to slow down, and while sailing homeward, decided to scale down plans for the World’s Fair campaign.

During the crisis at sea, however, Moody perceived that God confronted him with a decision: Would Moody press on with all his might to deliver the gospel or would he be cautious, allowing fear to diminish his fervor? Facing death, Moody decided that if God would spare his life, he would work with “all the power that He would give me.” And if he should die this year or next, that was in God’s hands.

The following morning, however, the steamer Lake Huron discovered the stranded ship and towed it one thousand miles to safety. D.L. Moody pressed on with his World’s Fair campaign, six months of unceasing labor, from which, in Moody’s estimate, “millions . . . heard the simple gospel” and “thousands [were] genuinely converted to Christ.” Moody died in the midst of his work—seven years later.