Chapter 8 - Giving Up Business

Table of Contents

Moody as a Commercial Traveller - "God will Provide" - He Gives Up Business - His Means Exhausted - Friends Come with Unsolicited Aid Marriage - His Wife and Her Influence - Mr. Moody's Family.

It is not hard to appreciate the straits to which Mr. Moody was subjected by the conflicting claims of his business and his mission work, Only a man of boundless energy and fine physique could have accomplished what he was accomplishing. His business received its full share of his attention as formerly, but in his every spare moment his mind was occupied by plans for the work at North Market Hall, while every evening and every Sunday he gave himself up wholly to his labours for the Master.


Meanwhile he had not remained with Mr. Wiswall. After two years with his first friend, he entered the establishment of Mr. C. N. Henderson, who had become acquainted with him at the Mission, and had taken interest in the young man and his work. This new connection forced upon him the work of a commercial traveller. His evenings could no longer be given to mission work at home, for the greater part of his time was spent out of the city. However, no matter how far his travels might have taken him during the week, he never failed to return on Saturday night, that he might be at North Market Hall on Sunday. It will be readily understood that inasmuch as his business arrangements provided for his return to the city only one Sunday out of four, the expenses of his weekly trips would have been a serious drain upon his slender financial resources. But the superintendent of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad, a man of generous impulses, who felt deeply interested in the North Side Sunday school, finding that Mr. Moody's presence was essential to the Sunday work, provided him with a free pass over the railroad lines under his control, to bring him home three Sundays out of the four.

Mr. Moody had not held his position very long before Mr. Henderson died. In the changes which the removal of this good man entailed in the house, Mr. Moody severed his connection with the firm and removed to the establishment of Messrs. Buel, Hill, & Granger, with whom he remained for about one year. More and more was his heart wrapped up in his practical Christian work business meant less and less to him. Finally he made his decision and gave up secular business entirely that he might devote his whole strength and time to practical work for the Lord.


This was no sudden decision, no lightning conviction of a great duty. On the contrary, the step was decided upon only after mature deliberation and a thorough test of his fitness for his chosen work. His first ambition had been to become a great merchant; now this was thrown aside, and when at last he bade good-bye to business, he said to one of his friends, "I have decided to give to God all my time". "But how are you going to live?" asked his friend. Mr. Moody replied, " God will provide for me, if he wishes me to keep on, and I shall keep on until I am obliged to stop."

There was no unpleasantness in his severance of the old business connections. All his former employers spoke in the highest terms of Mr. Moody and of his work with them. Said Mr. Hill, a member of the last firm for whom he worked, " One day not long after he left our house I ran across him, and I asked him, 'Moody, what are you doing?' 'I am at work for Jesus Christ,' was the reply. At first his answer shocked me a little, but after I had thought it over I decided that it was a fair statement of the facts in the case. It was true; that was just what he was doing, and his work for the Lord was as vigorous, as practical, as it had always been for other employers." Mr. Hill added that Mr. Moody had left the employ of his firm in the pleasantest circumstances, having retained his Christian character unblemished. All of his old employers, as a matter of fact, not only bade him God speed when he left them, but kept some track of his future course, with the conviction, even in those early days, that he would succeed in accomplishing great things.

It had not been difficult for Mr. Moody, during his years of business life, to lay up a considerable sum of money out of his salary, for his living expenses were very light and his frugality a matter of record; but a great part of what he earned went into his mission work. Before leaving the world of business he set aside a certain sum. Part of this money he invested, but he saved out $1,000 to pay his first year's expenses. He was now happy. Free to devote his time to his loved Mission, and to the Y.M.C.A .work, which was becoming almost equally dear to him, and conscious of the fact that he had in his pocket money to enable him to accomplish many of his plans, he set out with a light heart on his new life. And yet, it was not a new life, it was simply a ripening of those seeds which had been sown back there in his uncle's store in Boston when he first gave his heart to the Lord.

One of the first things he did was to invest part of his thousand dollars in a small pony. With the help of this animal he was able to extend his missionary excursions over a much wider area, and to accomplish much more than theretofore. The sight of Mr. Moody on his pony became a familiar one in the poor districts of Chicago. It is said that often after a Sunday morning hunt for Sunday school recruits, he would be seen emerging from some squalid street, surrounded by children, some of whom had clambered upon the pony with him, while others hung to the bridle reins or marched behind in procession on their way to the Sunday school.


Meanwhile the thousand dollars quickly vanished. It did not prove enough to meet half the demands which the mission work and various other deeds of charity brought upon Mr. Moody. Then the rest of his small fortune disappeared, and he found himself reduced to the proverbial water and a crust. One of the few books which he had read was the life of George Muller, whose work of faith in England had impressed him so deeply that he determined to follow that good man's principle and trust in the Lord even for his sustenance. When the growth of the Y.M.C.A. noon prayer meetings necessitated their removal to a large backroom in the First Methodist Church block, Mr. Moody betook himself there, and, though at length brought to the necessity of sleeping on the benches of the prayer room and living on crackers and cheese, he kept on with his work, not even making his condition known to his friends, who would have been glad to help him. All this time he was collecting considerable sums for charitable purposes, but not one cent did he devote to himself. He had determined to give his faith a thorough test. At times he must have felt some faltering, but at those times the Lord always gave him some reassurance.

After a time some of his friends began to wonder how he was living, and were greatly astonished at the result of the investigations. Discovering his poverty, they insisted upon supplying him with the necessities of life. From this time on, trust in God always brought Mr. Moody an answer to his needs. This does not mean that he was never tried, but simply that, taking everything into consideration, he was supplied comfortably, and sometimes even bountifully. People who knew him came to esteem it a privilege to help him.

It is of interest here to give Mr. Moody's own narrative of the incident which finally influenced his decision to leave business for Christian work.


I had never lost sight of Jesus Christ since the first night I met Him in the store in Boston. But for years I was only a nominal Christian, really believing that I could not work for God. No one had ever asked me to do anything.

"I went to Chicago, I hired five pews in a church, and used to go out on the street and pick up young men and fill these pews. I never spoke to those young men about their souls; that was the work of the elders, I thought. After working for some time like that, I started a mission Sabbath school. I thought numbers were everything, and so I worked for numbers. When the attendance ran below one thousand, it troubled me; and when it ran to twelve or fifteen hundred, I was elated. Still none were converted; there was no harvest. Then God opened my eyes.

"There was a class of young ladies in the school, who were, without exception, the most frivolous set of girls I ever met. One Sunday the teacher was ill, and I took that class. They laughed in my face, and I felt like opening the door and telling them all to get out and never come back. That week the teacher of the class came into the place where I worked. He was pale, and looked very ill. 'What is the trouble?' I asked. ' I have had another hemorrhage of my lungs. The doctor says I cannot live on Lake Michigan, so I am going to New York State. I suppose I am going home to die.'

"He seemed greatly troubled, and when I asked him the reason, he replied: 'Well, I have never led any of my class to Christ. I really believe I have done the girls more harm than good.' I had never heard any one talk like that before, and it set me thinking. After a while I said: 'Suppose you go and tell them how you feel. I will go with you in a carriage, if you want to go'.


"He consented, and we started out together. It was one of the best journeys I ever had on earth. We went to the house of one of the girls, called for her, and the teacher talked to her about her soul. There was no laughing then! Tears stood in her eyes before long. After he had explained the way of life, he suggested that we have prayer. He asked me to pray. True, I had never done such a thing in my life as to pray God to convert a young lady there and then. But we prayed, and God answered our prayer. We went to other houses. He would go upstairs, and be all out of breath, and he would tell the girls what he had come for. It wasn't long before they broke down, and sought salvation. When his strength gave out, I took him back to his lodgings. The next day we went out again. At the end of ten days he came to the store with his face literally shining. ' Mr. Moody,' he said, the last one of my class has yielded herself to Christ.' I tell you we had a time of rejoicing. He had to leave the next night, so I called his class together that night for a prayer meeting, and there God kindled a fire in my soul that has never gone out. The height of my ambition had been to be a successful merchant, and, if I had known that meeting was going to take that ambition out of me, I might not have gone. But how many times I have thanked God since for that meeting! The dying teacher sat in the midst of his class, and talked with them, and read the fourteenth chapter of John. We tried to sing 'blest be the tie that binds,' after which we knelt clown to prayer. I was just rising from my knees, when one of the class began to pray for her dying teacher. Another prayed, and another, and before we rose, the whole class had prayed. As I went out I said to myself: 'O, God, let me die rather than lose the blessing I have received to-night!'

"The next morning I went to the depot to say good-bye to that teacher. Just before the train started, one of the class came, and before long, without any pre-arrangement, they were all there. What a meeting that was! We tried to sing, but we broke down. The last we saw of that dying teacher, he was standing on the platform of the car, his finger pointing upward, telling that class to meet him in Heaven. I didn't know what this was going to cost me. I was disqualified for business; it had become distasteful to me. I had got a taste of another world, and cared no more for making money. For some days after, the greatest struggle of my life took place. Should I give up business and give myself to Christian work, or should I not? I have never regretted my choice. O, the luxury of leading some one out of the darkness of this world into the glorious light and liberty of the Gospel.


It is time to speak of Mr. Moody's marriage. There was a lady who for some years had been a helper in his Mission. His first acquaintance with her dated from that little North Side Mission Sunday school in which he was offered a class on condition that he provide his own pupils. The interest of Mr. Moody for this young lady, whose name was Miss Emma C. Revell, grew deeper and deeper, and meanwhile her interest in him developed. It would hardly be thought by the average man of affairs, that marriage was a safe step for a man who had thrown up all business and had entered upon unsalaried mission work. But Mr. Moody was living the life of trust, and the faith of Miss Revell was not less strong. They were married August 28, 1862.

They made their first home in a small cottage. A hospitable home it was, and a cheery one, and yet the little household was sometimes in great straits. Even after his marriage, Mr. Moody continued to refuse all offers of a salary. Often the family was in sight of want, but the Lord never permitted real distress. A number of instances are related of the ways in which his trust in God was honored.


A remarkable way in which the Lord remembered Mr. Moody, was by the gift of a new and completely furnished home. An old friend had erected a row of fine houses, one of which he privately set aside for Mr. Moody, free of rent, on the understanding that the evangelist's other friends would furnish it. The enterprise was taken up with enthusiasm, all unknown to Mr. Moody and his wife, and the house was fitted up comfortably. Early on a New Year's morning Mr. Moody and his family were captured and driven to the house. When they entered they were surprised to find it full of acquaintances and friends. Their surprise was turned to gratitude and joy when a spokesman of the company handed to Mr. Moody a lease of the house and the free gift of all it contained This home was not long left to them, for the great Chicago fire carried it away.

No Life of Mr. Moody would be complete without further reference to his wife, who has been his constant companion in all his sorrows and his joys. She is of a retiring disposition, and yet in that day of rewards when D. L. Moody is crowned, it is the opinion of his many friends who know whereof they speak, that Mrs. Moody will have no small share of reward.

Mr. Ira D. Sankey has said, "Amid all that has been said about what has made Mr. Moody so great a man, I want to say that one of the greatest influences of his life came from his wife. She has been the break upon an impetuous nature, and she more than any other living person is responsible for his success.


She has been more than interested in his work from the beginning. In connection with his Sunday school work in Chicago, the following incident is told: "A stranger who was visiting the Sunday school in Chicago, noticed a lady teaching a class of about forty middle-aged men, in the gallery. Looking at her and then at the class, he said to Mr. Moody, 'Is not that lady altogether too young to teach such a class of men? She seems to me very youthful for such a position.' Mr. Moody replied, 'She gets along very well, and seems to succeed in her teaching.' The stranger did not appear to be altogether satisfied. He walked about the school, evidently in an anxious state of mind. In a few moments he approached the superintendent again, and, with becoming gravity, said, 'Mr. Moody, I can not but feel that that lady must be altogether too young to instruct such a large company of men. Will you, sir, please to inform me who she is?' 'Certainly,' replied Mr. Moody, 'that is my wife.' The stranger made no more inquiries, and nothing occurred to indicate the state of his mind during the remainder of his visit.

One of the members of his family has said, "No man ever paid greater homage to his wife than Mr. Moody. I never met with a happier couple. In every way he deferred to her. She answered all his voluminous correspondence. She was the person to whom he always spoke of his plans and his work. No trouble was too great for him, if he could save her any bother or every-day, ordinary little troubles."

Mrs. Moody has done some remarkable work in the inquiry meetings held in different parts of the country. One of my dear friends is Mr. E. P. Brown, for a long time the editor of the Rams horn. I knew him in the days of his infidelity. A more bitter infidel I have never known in my life. He has told me how one night he entered the Chicago Avenue Church that he might criticise Moody in his article which he was writing for his infidel paper. Mr. Moody's sermon was on the father of the prodigal, and looking squarely into the face of my friend, he said, "My friend, the father of the prodigal is the picture of God, and as the father of the prodigal is waiting for his son, so God is waiting for you.


E. P. Brown was startled. He has since said: "I heard the theologians talk about God, and I hated Him, but I had a father and I knew what his love was, and I found myself saying, If this is the true picture of God then I would like to know Him." When the invitation was given for the inquiry meeting, E. P. Brown accepted it, and it was Mrs. Moody who gave him help which finally led him out of his darkness of unbelief and led him into the glorious light and liberty in which he now stands as a son of God.

This is but one instance. Hundreds of others might be repeated. We can quite understand, therefore, how it is that from the very day when D. L. Moody determined to give up his business to the last moment of his life when he said good-bye to his beloved wife, she was more helpful and inspiring to him than any other person in the world.

Mr. Moody's family consists of three children. William Revell Moody, his eldest child, has ever been the constant companion of his father, who relied upon him. If a father's mantle may fall upon his son's shoulders, William R. Moody in his father's purpose and plan, ought to lead in the carrying on of his great work. He is a graduate of Yale and is a consecrated Christian man with a great desire to do everything his father could wish. He is happily married to the eldest daughter of Major D. W. Whittle. It was with great pleasure that the Christian world knew that in this way these two families so greatly used of God were so happily to be brought into closer and more sacred relations. Mrs. W. R. Moody is the author of the hymn "Moment by Moment", and has been very useful in Christian service both at home and abroad.


Emma Moody Fitt, Mr. Moody's second child, was as near to him as a daughter can be to her father. The most intense affection made them one in their interests and work. She is the wife of Mr. A. I. Fitt, for some time Mr. Moody's private secretary, and latterly his valued helper in every way. I have heard Mr. Moody say again and again, "I do not know how I should get along, if it were not for Fitt." He has been the superintendent and prime mover in the colportage work in Chicago, and Mr. Moody's work in general owes much to his faithful, untiring and affectionate interest.

Paul, the second son and youngest child, is a member of the Junior Class at Yale College. An earnest, active Christian young man, he is making his life tell for Christ among the students and giving great promise of future usefulness in the world. Very many people look to him in future days largely to carry on his father's public work.

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