|Messrs. Moody and Sankey in Great Britian|
by C. H. Spurgeon
From the February 1876 Sword and Trowel
|Quoted sections are excerpted from D. L. Moody and His Work. by W. H. Daniels, A.M., Chicago. (With Portraits and Illustrations. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1875). The comments interspersed between the quotations are thought to be Mr. Spurgeon's. A letter written six years later from Mr. Spurgeon to "Ben. Nicholson, Esq." is reproduced below. The letter is included here because of its relevance to the subject. It was not part of the original Sword and Trowel article.|
HE avowed object of Mr. Moody in setting foot on our shores was to win ten thousand souls for Christ; and he landed at Liverpool in the middle of June, 1873, under somewhat gloomy circumstances, such as would have damped the zeal of any man whose all-sustaining faith had not borne him aloft above difficulties and earthly care. Two of his most influential friends were dead; and of those who were left few expected him, and to judge by appearances none very particularly wished for his services. Yet, as a beginning would have to be made somewhere, York" cold and dead"was the chosen spot. Late at night "he reached the city where very few had ever heard his name."
Humanly speaking, a more unpromising starting-point could not have been selected. The inhabitants of cathedral cities have never been remarkable for their zeal in the promotion of religious revivals, and this was most emphatically true of the polite churchgoers whose homes clustered around York Minster. Having been used to have everything done in an elegant, orthodox, ecclesiastical manner, they were the less inclined to tolerate an invader of their primly-kept parterre, who had only one aim in life, whose speech was as homely as his illustrations were bold and original, and who, to crown all other disqualifications, was totally unknown to fame. The congregation which first welcomed the evangelists was characteristic of the place and of the times; it assembled "in one of the small rooms of the Young Men's Christian Association," and "eight persons only were in attendance." Learn not to despise the day of small things by remembering that this company of eight was "the first of that long series of revival meetings which were destined to form an era in the history of England, Scotland, and Ireland."
Yet even in aristocratic York an impression of a kind was made before the allotted month of service had expired; although the clergy looked on with lofty disdain, while the Dissenters, according to their denominational bias, timidly shrank from abetting the cause of men who were not of their school. The common people at any rate soon discovered that strangers of no ordinary caliber were among them. The earnestness of the visitors was manifest. The flaming solicitude of the preacher struck numbers with awe, and Mr. Sankey sang for a purpose. The Bible expositions were thoroughly original and effective, so that "people who went to church with no particular religious impressions were often brought under the influence of the truth." The harvest at York was no mean onemany were brought into the Savior's fold, and both singer and preacher rejoiced over the spoil.
On taking leave of York to continue the campaign in Sunderland the outlook was still unpromising. Only one Nonconformist minister held out his hand to welcome the itinerant gospellers, and this fact immediately awakened sectarian prejudices which occasioned the main body of the pastors to keep in the background, if not actually to discountenance the work in progress "We can never go on in this way. It is easier fighting the devil than fighting the ministers," said Mr. Moody. A slight advance was made when an invitation came to preach before the Young Men's Christian Association; but when this was done, and the meetings were all ablaze in consequence of the largeness of the blessings poured out upon them, not a few influential persons even became embittered against the Young Men's Institution because of its connection with the evangelists. Having scented his "Calvinistic theology" the Wesleyans would have found reason for.justifying a determined opposition had not the wise counsel of Dr. Punshon led them to adopt an opposite course. Pamphlets and flyleaves more or less bitterly hostile to the American innovators were thickly sown among the crowd. Some lifted up the warning voice because the entire affair was different from anything with which they were acquainted; others were offended because people were converted too fast; and a few insisted that singing the gospel was a snare and a sham. "Poor Mr. Moody! His soul was among lions. Even the sweet singing of Mr. Sankey could not calm all the disturbances which were raised by his vigorous discourses."
At Newcastle an era of better things was inaugurated. The battle with the ministers and with prejudices in high places was now virtually over, and Mr. Moody was master of the situation. One after another the pastors came forward to wish the work God-speed and to render assistance. The best people in the town, in common with the lowest, came in crowds to the preaching services, to the noon prayer-meetings, and to the popular Bible readings. The searching words of the preacher went abroad far and wide to hit their mark in most unexpected places. The hardened and the abandoned were rescued from ruin. Half-and-half professors felt their first love rekindled; and "More than one minister of the gospel, who found himself without a satisfactory experience, gave himself to Christ anew, and came into a joyful sense of pardon and acceptance." There was one poor soul who felt that he could not come to Christ because the fetters were about his soul and Satan was hard upon him. Dr. Lowe read to him the passage relating to the Pool of Bethesda; but still the inquirer was despondinghis case clearly resembled that of the impotent folk, but still he could not for some reason or another lay hold on the Savior:
"'You are impotent?' 'Yes; I cannot help myself a bit.' 'You are blind? you just now said the devil was throwing dust in your eyes.' 'True.' 'And you have had this infirmity as long as thirty-eight years, have you not?' 'Yes; just about that time,' said the inquirer, 'Now, hear what Jesus said:And when Jesus saw him lying, and knew that he had been a long time in that case, he said unto him, Wilt thou be made whole?" Now, my friend, that is just what Christ is saying to you: "Wilt thou be made whole?"' Quick as lightning the truth flashed in upon the poor man's mind. He sprang to his feet, shouting, 'I am free! Where is Mr. Moody?' And away he rushed to find him; threw his arms about him, nearly carrying him off his feet; seized both his bands, and shook them joyful]y, exclaiming, 'I am free. I am free.
A number of other towns besides Newcastle, York, and Sunderland were visited, the most marvelous results following. In the meantime Scotland was looking on with wonder, and having received unimpeachable testimony that all was orthodox and straightforward, she invited the evangelists to Edinburgh. "What can such a man as! do up there amongst those great Scotch divines?" said Mr. Moody. The answer came when he really went, and when the romantic capital of the north was stirred, as she has probably not been stirred since the Reformation days, when John Knox preached in the cathedral, and Craig in the Cowgate. What was called" the voracity" of the evangelist's faith astonished everybody, while his "use of the Bible was greatly enjoyed." The interest felt in the movement by Edinburgh soon extended to the whole of Scotland; newspapers devoted a large portion of their space to the daily history of the revivals, while the multitudes who thronged the meeting places were largely composed of the elite of a city which calls itself the modern Athens. "In thousands of Christian households," we are told, "the deepest interest was felt by parents for their children, and by masters and mistresses for their servants; and so universal was this that Dr. Horatius Bonar declares his belief that there was scarcely a Christian household in all Edinburgh in which there were not one or more persons converted during this revival." The voice of slander was raised; so was also the cry of heresy; the press poured forth its vituperations, and letters of violent abuse were plentifully received; but still the wave of revival swept forward. The following affords us an insight into the character of the work carried on at this time:
"Edinburgh is a city of wealth and leisure. Large numbers of persons who have either made or inherited fortunes reside here; and among the very highest classes of Edinburgh society were found the heartiest admirers of, and the most enthusiastic workers with, the evangelists from across the sea. But there are also, in this center of wealth and learning, a good many educated infidels, who have united themselves into clubs for the purpose of preaching their unbelief in much the same way as Christians unite in churches to enjoy the fellowship of faith. Among the notable cases of conversion was the chairman of one of these infidel clubs. He came to a meeting, intending not only to ridicule it, but hoping also to raise a controversy with Mr. Moody, and thus practically break it up. In this, however, he was altogether unsuccessful, and would have been thrust out of the house for his interruption, if the speaker had not interposed in his behalf. He remained for some time after the congregation were dismissed; and Mr. Moody, seeing him, inquired if he wanted to be a Christian. He replied that he did not, and that he had a very poor opinion of Christians. 'Would you like to have us pray for you?' said Mr. Moody. 'Oh yes; I have no objection to your trying your hand on me, if you like; but I think you will find me a match for you.' Mr. Moody kneeled down beside the scoffer, prayed for him earnestly and tenderly, and then left him, promising to pray for him still further at home. It was not long. before he was brought under deep conviction of sin, resigned his presidency of the infidel club, and earnestly and faithfully sought the Savior. At a subsequent meeting in Edinburgh, out of thirty persons seeking the Lord, seventeen were members of this infidel club,one of them its chairman, the successor of him whose conversion has just been related; and who has since become a successful evangelist."
The work in Edinburgh was repeated in many other towns of Scotland such as Perth, Dundee, Aberdeen, etc., and with similar results, the people going so far as to tolerate Mr. Sankey's "unsanctified musical machine." The campaign in Ireland which succeeded was still more remarkable when we take into account the national prejudices of the population. In Dublin the Great Exhibition building was hired for the meetings as being the only place in the city capable of accommodating the multitudes who came to hear. This success of the evangelists in the Emerald Isle was a fine testimony to the power of the simple gospel; for while no fierce denunciations of the apostate church were heard from the platform, the converts came alike from the ranks of Romanists as well as from the houses of the Protestants. The Romish leaders raised the voice of warning, but to no purpose; and their machinations were aided by a club of atheists, who penetrated into the inquiry rooms to endeavor to turn the whole into controversy. As an illustration of Mr. Moody's carefulness in minor matters, it may be mentioned that he took pains to have the vast area of their meeting-place made warm and comfortable. "Let us get all the difficulties out of the way," he remarked: "it will not be easy to save these people while they are shivering with cold."
Of the subsequent work of the evangelists in Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, and Sheffield, want of space will preclude our speaking. We will, however, quote a passage relating to a comic singer of Liverpool:
"This man was coming upon the stage one evening to sing a comic song, when a verse of a Sunday School hymn, which he had learned years ago, flashed through his mind, producing so deep an impression that he was unable to drive it away. He attempted to sing his song but failed, and on retiring from the stage was summarily dismissed by the manager. For three weeks he plunged into the deepest dissipation, being scarcely sober for a single hour all that time. During this debauch he wrote a comedy, which he finished off with a burlesque upon Messrs. Moody and Sankey, who had just then arrived in Liverpool; and in order to give greater point to his satire, he attended one of the services in Victoria Hall, to hear them for himself. While thus watching for something of which to make sport upon the comic stage, the Holy Spirit so impressed the truth upon his heart that he remained to the after-meeting for inquirers, was instructed in the way of his duty, and that very night found peace with God. He has now entered into training for the purpose of becoming a missionary."
Of the work in London, we can only say that various opinions are held, but no one can doubt that the two beloved workers did their utmost to bring down a blessing, and that in a measure the blessing did come. The large halls were crowded with Christians, and so the unconverted were kept out, and the work was quite distinct from all places of worship, and so many who were converted have not yet found their way to regular houses of prayer. The state of affairs in London was very different from that in Scotland, and if (as we fear) the result is different, the honoured men of God are none the less accepted of their Master. While we have in England the perpetual irritation of an established semi-Papal church it will be impossible to work together as brethren do in Scotland, therefore the like blessing cannot be expected.
Mr. Daniels would not agree with this last paragraph, neither have we any pleasure in writing it, but we dare not before the Lord write otherwise than we believe to be true. The work of Mr. Daniels deserves to be widely circulated. The book abounds in information which the Christian philanthropist will be able to utilize; and the general reader, who demands entertainment as well as instruction, will not be disappointed while turning over its pages.
To Ben. Nicholson, Esq.
April 1, 1882.
am the earnest friend and helper of all who preach the Gospel of Jesus; yet I deem it no unfriendly thing to speak the truth, and what I wrote in 1875 I have never seen any reason to alter. Messrs. Moody & Sankey are two blessed men of God, and if their converts on that occasion vanished, it was no fault of theirs, neither would I have had them refrain for an hourfar from it.
The movement in London had (comparatively) no link with the Churches, and fostered a rival spirit, and hence it did not bring a permanent blessing of increase to the Churches.
Still, it brought a great blessing to the Church universal, and revived and encouraged us all.
I would warn Churches against trusting in spasmodic effort, but at the same time against refusing such special help as the Lord puts in their way. There is a medium.
In any case, I am not against Evangelistic effort, but heartily its advocate.
Yours very truly and gratefully,
C. H. Spurgeon