Chapter 18 - The Last Campaign

Table of Contents

Mr. Moody Goes to Kansas City - The Great Convention Hall - Inspiring Opening Services - The Beginning of the End - Mr. Moody Breaks Down - Back to Northfleld.

The last public appearance of Mr. Moody was in Kansas City, Missouri. He began a series of meetings there November 12, 1899. Earlier in the autumn a meeting of the ministers of the evangelical churches had sent an invitation to the great evangelist to captain a religious campaign in the young and vigorous western city. The preliminary discussions of the proposed meetings afforded proof of the confidence reposed in Mr. Moody by many men of many minds. About him the religious forces of the city crystallized with enthusiasm. His name was a power, making for Christian unity. The executive committee of ministers represented the Presbyterian, Methodist. Episcopal, Congregational, Christian, Methodist Episcopal, South and Baptist denominations.


When the laymen were informed of the proposed meetings they sent word to the ministers that they would raise the funds necessary to defray all expenses--a pledge that was abundantly fulfilled. Several of the large business establishments announced that they would pay for one day each the rental of the hall where the meetings were held. The general gratification over the coming of Mr. Moody was a splendid testimonial to his recognized leadership in soul-winning.

Mr. Moody arrived in the city on Saturday morning, in readiness to inaugurate the campaign on the day following. Immediately after breakfast he went with members of the local committee, to have a look at Convention Hall, the mammoth building where the meetings were to be held. He stood upon the stage and tried his voice. He was more than satisfied with the result, declaring that he had come 1,500 miles from New York to find the best hall he had spoken in in this country. The hall had been dedicated only in February of that year. It has a seating capacity of between 15,000 and 20,000. In the interior there are four floors commanding the stage, and here the famous evangelist in his last meetings preached the Gospel to some of the largest audiences ever reached at one time by his voice.


One secret of Mr. Moody's hold upon the public was illustrated by a characteristic conversation on the occasion of his first visit to the Convention Hall. He had a large human interest, even in secular movements and institutions. One of the reporters of the party said to him: "Do you know, Mr. Moody, how this building was put up? Do you know what it means to this city?" "No" said Mr. Moody, " I suppose some wealthy man owned it." "Kansas City owns it." Was the answer. "Nearly every man and woman, hundreds of children contributed to its building, and own stock in it. It was built by gifts of the poor, as well as of the rich. It was built voluntarily by the people, and not by taxes. And it stands to-day as it stood the day it was finished, without a dollar of debt"

At once Mr. Moody was intensely interested and demanded the story of the building. It was given him. "That is the sort of thing that annihilates anarchy," said Mr. Moody, in a burst of enthusiasm. "When I laid eyes on the hall, I said that there was no such hall in the country. But now that I know the sentiment and feeling that have been put into the hall, I know there is no other such building in the world. Do you know that when men are induced to unite as this city has united, where all classes of people behave as if they had common interests, a great lesson has been taught. The value of your hall, it strikes me, it is not in dollars and cents, but moral significance. I did not believe that such a thing could be done in this generation. It has never been done before." It was this cordial sympathy and hearty appreciation of everything that influenced or manifested the life of a community that the people feel that Mr. Moody was one with them, and upon this common ground of vantage he gained the public ear for his message.


The first meeting of the memorable series was held on Sunday afternoon. The singing was led by great chorus of more than 500 voices, organized for the occasion. This was in charge of Prof. C. C. Case, who accompanied Mr. Moody. In his characteristic way Mr. Moody said, "There's good material in that choir. They sing famously well. At first, I am told, there was some difference between the Methodists and Presbyterians in the manner of their singing. The Methodists sang fast, and the Presbyterians sang slow. The result was peculiar. But we have taught them to pull together pretty well now." Another feature of singing that pleased Mr. Moody was an old men's quartette, which sang several times.

The happy faculty possessed by evangelist of securing desired action on part of vast audience, was shown in this first meeting in connection with singing. The hymns to be used were printed in sheet form, and were in the hands of the audience. The noise made in handling them threatened to drown the speaker's voice. Just before he began his sermon Mr. Moody said "All who have sheet hymns please hold them up high." At once 5,000 hands were uplifted, holding the rustling sheets of paper. The effect was that of a Chautauqua salute. "Now shake them," he said. They all did, and the result was an indescribably noisy confusion. "Now sit on them," he said, with a laugh. "I only wanted you to see what a noise they would make, if you kept handling them." The result of this felicitous admonition was a reign of silence.

The service was to begin at three o'clock, but before that time the great auditorium was filled, and it was necessary to close and lock the doors. Several thousand people were turned away. At night an overflow meeting crowded the Second Presbyterian Church near by, and great crowds of people went home, unable to get into either meeting. There had been notable gatherings in the great Convention Hall on former occasions, but even the dedication services, with the attraction of Sousa's Band and the appeal to civic pride, failed to bring together such a throng as that assembled to hear the man of God preach his plain, direct Gospel. It was the greatest meeting in point of attendance in the history of the Mississippi Valley. It was evidence of the fact that, as some one has said, "man is incurably religious," and of the further fact, that there is attractiveness in the message of a recognized ambassador for Christ.


The subject of the opening sermons, afternoon and evening, was the same, "Sowing and Reaping." Mr. Moody looked down into the thousands of upturned faces, and amidst intense silence, began the delivery of his last series of sermons by saying: "In after years, as you go by this building, I want you to remember this text that I am going to read to you. I pray that God will write it on every heart. It appeals to men and women of every sort and condition; to the priests and the ministers and the reporters: 'Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.'" Then followed such a sermon as has won thousands for Christ. Terse, direct sentences, freighted with convicting truth, were dropped deliberately from his lips. He was the master of the assemblies. The people sat in rapt attention, and upon their faces could be traced the effects of varying phases of thought. Toward the close the preacher made an appeal, tender as a young mother's love, and unnoticed tears fell from thousands of eyes. In solemn silence, at the last, the benediction dismissed audiences whose souls had been stirred to deepest depths.


The meetings on Monday fulfilled the expectations aroused by Sunday's services. Following the evening sermon an after-meeting was held in the Second Presbyterian Church, just across the street from Convention Hall. The church was crowded, many standing. As Mr. Moody took his place, the old hymn, "Just as I am," was sung, and then, with no preamble, he began one of his face to face dealings with inquirers. In a simple, conversational way, he presented the truth, just as though he were sitting by the side of each one before him. He closed with an effective incident from his army experience, illustrating his appeal. Then the evangelist paused a moment. The church was still. The ticking of the clock could be distinctly heard. Then he spoke:

"Will any one say he will trust Christ? If so, say 'I will'." He paused, but no reply came, and then again he put the question quietly, "Who will say he will trust Christ?" A moment of silence again, and far back in the church there came a low, but firm, response, "I will." At the sound Mr. Moody advanced quickly to the edge of the platform, and with his eyes questioned those before him. The responses came fast and faster, and in a few minutes fully fifty had said "I will." The after-meeting on Tuesday evening was a repetition of the one the night before. It was marked by the conversion of one of the most prominent business men of the city. His action, which was without reserve of any sort, made the timid confident, and the result was decision on the part of many.


On Wednesday came the first indications of a break-down. The great strain of speaking twice a day in so large a building as Convention Hall began to tell on Mr. Moody. After the night meeting he told the ministers that he was almost exhausted; that he must have some rest, and that it would be impossible for him to lead the inquirers' meeting in the church. He went at once to his room at the Coate's House, that he might rest and be ready for the great meetings of the next day. On Thursday afternoon he gave signs of exhaustion, though anything like a total physical collapse was not apprehended. To a sympathetic inquiry on the part of one of the city ministers, who-asked him how he felt, the answer was, "Not big." At night his appearance had changed. His face was flushed, and he perspired profusely. He appeared at times hardly able to support himself, and it seemed sometimes as though he would fall from weakness. The pauses after making his telling points were lengthened, but otherwise his presentation of the truth was as usual. "Then cometh the end." The benediction was pronounced. The public personal work of Dwight L. Moody was finished.

For tens of thousands of people whose lives were touched by the evangel of this soul-winner every incident of that last day will possess a deep interest. There was one circumstance of the afternoon that, in the light of what followed, seemed prophetic in its significance. When Mr. Moody sat in his chair, so tired, during the song service, before beginning his sermon, he asked Mr. Case to sing "Saved by Grace," Fanny J. Crosby's beautiful hymn. In it is the stanza:

"Some day the silver cord will break,
And I, no more, as now, shall sing;
But O, the joy when I shall wake
Within the palace of the King.
Then I shall see Him, face to face,
And tell the story, Saved by Grace."

But if Mr. Moody had any premonition of the approaching end, it passed away as he became possessed of his subject, "The Grace of God." He warned the older Christians to avoid living in the past. He denounced the pessimistic tendencies of those who were sure the former days were better than these. "I have no sympathy," he said, "with the idea that our best days are behind us. In a hopeful, cheery mood he spoke of the shock he had experienced some time before, when he picked up a paper and saw himself alluded to as "old Moody." "Why," he said, "I'm not old. I'm only a baby when considered in comparison with the great eternity which is to come."

The last sermon on Thursday night was on the parable of "The Great Supper." In it he dealt especially with the excuses men made for staying out of the Kingdom of God. Mr. Moody closed his sermon in a peculiarly effective way. He said that, if an excuse were written out by one of the reporters, asking God, "I pray Thee have me excused from the marriage feast," that no one in the house would sign it. If the note were written to go direct to God, "I will be there," all would want to sign it. "Now," said the preacher, "how many will accept this invitation? How many will say, 'I will?'" Then, as a number responded, the request was repeated. Still he lingered, his energies exhausted, and made one more appeal. "I'll wait a few minutes longer to see if anyone else, any man, woman or child, will say the word. I could stand here all night and listen to these 'I wills.'" So he went away to his long rest with the sound of "I will" spoken by those who were moved by his words still in his ears.


Some of the utterances of that last day are peculiarly worthy of preservation. Among them were such statements as these: "I've worn God's yoke for over forty years, and I've always found it easy. "There's nothing sweeter than to obey God's will. He is not a severe task-master." "You may trust God. I can believe in God rather than in D. L. Moody. My heart has deceived me a thousand times, but God has never deceived me once. "If you have a good impulse act on it. Don't be afraid. I say that most of the good done in the world is done by men who act on impulses. I am sixty-two, and I have acted on impulses all my life. I never made a mistake by acting on an impulse I felt to be good." "The natural growth of the Christian is toward more kindness and a more beautiful nature. Have you ever noticed how many old people seem cross and crabbed these days? That is because they have not been good Christians." "I am not old. I'm only an infant compared with the ages that will roll over me when I am gone."' "Those who live in Christ will live forever. The glory is not past, but to come.

Friday morning, toward noon, Mr. Moody went out driving. He came back thoroughly exhausted. Not until then did he relinquish the hope of preaching that day. He sent for one of the ministers of the committee, Rev. Dr. Matt. S. Hughes, of the Independence Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church, to preach that afternoon, saying, as he made his request, with a flash of his old spirit, "You Methodists are always prepared to preach." Mr. Moody told those who were near him that he had never felt so feeble before. For the first time in forty years he was obliged to abandon his services. He had not been able to lie in bed for three nights, but had taken all his rest in his chair, sleeping only a few minutes at a time. It was decided, upon consultation with his physician, Dr. Schauffler, that he should go home at once.

Mr. Moody was sitting in his armchair. He was breathing heavily, and his face seemed puffy and bloated. He said his limbs were swelling, and he had a feeling of oppression about his heart. I'm afraid I shall have to give up the meetings," he said. "It's too bad." He was silent. "It's the first time in forty years of preaching that I have had to give up my meetings." He did not say anything for a while. Then he spoke in a low voice. "It is more painful to me to give up those audiences than it is to suffer from my ailments." How regretfully he relinquished his labors! But he could at least lay down his life with the knowledge that his steps had never lagged.


An effort was made to get a special car, but none being available at once, the Gospel car, "The Messenger-of Peace," belonging to the American Baptist Publication Society, and in charge of Rev. S. G. Neil, the railroad evangelist, was offered for the trip to Northfield. At nine o'clock on Thursday evening, accompanied by a physician and friends, the homeward journey was begun. The next day a cheery telegram came from Mr. Moody, saying that he had had the best night for a week, and thanking "the good people of Kansas City for all their kindnesses".

Charles M. Vining tells an interesting story of the trip home with Mr. Moody. When the train pulled into Detroit it was over an hour late, and unless at least half of this time could be made up, the eastern connection for the through Boston train could not be made. As the train was standing in the station at Detroit, the engineer came back along the train until he reached the Gospel car. "Whose car is this?" he asked one of the party who was standing outside. "It's a special taking Mr. Moody, the evangelist to his home," was the reply. "Where has he been?" came the question. "He was holding meetings in Kansas City, where he was taken ill, and now we are taking him home. We are about an hour late, and if we don't make up the time, we won't make the proper connections for Boston." "Look here," said the engineer, "fifteen years ago I was converted by Moody, and I have lived a better and happier life ever since. I didn't know Moody's car was on to-night, but if you want me to make up the time for you I'll do it. Just tell Mr. Moody that one of his friends is on the engine and then hold your breath." As soon as the train got clear of the city the engineer pulled the throttle open, and it is said that he made the fastest time ever made over this division. Connections were made, and when the party awakened the next morning they were on the Boston train. When Mr. Vining left East Northfield for Kansas City, Mr. Moody said: "Tell them they have caged the old lion at last."

While the influences of his work were still active in the churches of the city, came the tidings that he had entered into rest, and Kansas City, the recipient of his latest toil, bowed its head in sorrow over the common bereavement that had come to the Christian world.

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