Chapter 23 - His Best Illustrations

Table of Contents

The Fervour of His Eloquence - "Let the Lower Lights Be Burning" - "For Charlie's Sake" - A Penalty Necessary - Calling on God - One Year's Record.

Mr. Moody was a master in the use of illustrations. He' saw in everything on which his eye rested something, that would make the Word of God more easily understood. What other men would pass by, he seized upon, and, under his skillful touch, told in his inimitable way, it became powerful in illustrating the statements of the Bible. His illustrations always moved him, and for that reason they took firm hold upon his hearers. I have, again and again, seen the tears roll clown his face as he would tell some touching story of a father's love for his child, or give some wonderful picture of the passing of a saint into the presence of God. There are those who criticize the use of illustrations in sermons, but Jesus used them, and was ever and again saying; "Whereunto shall I liken it," and would then tell the story of a prodigal son, or a broken-hearted mother, or a demoniac boy "and the common people heard him gladly"


The Honorable James A. Mount, Governor of Indiana, thus writes of him:

"I unhesitatingly pronounce Dwight L. Moody the greatest preacher of the century. Classical scholars and literary critics may not agree with this estimate. Mr. Moody did not preach to please the ear, but to save the soul, yet he moved thousands to repentance by the fervor of his eloquence and the earnestness of his appeal.

"He had a message from the Holy Spirit to dying men, and with love to God and love to men he delivered that message. More enduring than if perpetuated by marble shaft will be the name of Moody, for it is embalmed in the memory of loving hearts whom he led out of darkness into light, and from the power of sin to salvation through faith in Christ. ' He being dead yet speaketh'."

And whatever may be given by men as the secret of his power as a preacher, all will agree in this, that his superb power in the use of illustration, contributed, in no small degree, to his ability to hold and to sway the millions of people to whom he preached.

The following illustration I have often heard him use {*}

It is said that Whitefield once preached a sermon, in the midst of which a sudden thunder storm of terrific force burst upon them, and, taking advantage of the storm to illustrate the Judgment, the effect of his preaching was profound. A request was sent to him to print the sermon for distribution; he agreed to do so on condition that the thunder storm be printed with it.

To appreciate D. L. Moody's illustrations you should have seen his audience moved by them, and you should have looked up into his face, all aglow with the power of his message, as I have done in the use of my story here given. The following are only a few of the hundreds he used when I have heard him preach:


People read infidel books and wonder why they are unbelievers. I ask, why do they read such books? They think they must read both sides. I ask, if that book is a lie, how can it be one side? It is not one side.

Suppose a man tells lies about my family, and I read them so as to hear both sides; it would not be long before some suspicion would creep into my mind.

I said to a man once, "Have you got a wife?"

"Yes, and a good one."

I asked: "Now what if I should come to you and cast out insinuations against her?"

And he said, "Well your life would not be safe long if you did."

I told him just to treat the devil as he would treat a man who went around with such stories.


I remember laboring with a man in Chicago. It was past midnight before he got down on his knees, but down he went, and was converted. I said: "Now, don't think you are going to get out of the devil's territory without trouble. The devil will come to you to-morrow morning and say it was all feeling; that you only imagined you were accepted by God. When he does, don't fight him with your own opinions, but fight him with John vi. 37: "Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.' Let that be the "sword of the Spirit." "The struggle came sooner than I thought. When he was on his way home the devil assailed him. He used this text, but the devil put this thought into his mind: 'How do you know Christ ever said that after all? Perhaps the translators made a mistake.' Into darkness he went again. He was in trouble till about two in the morning. At last he came to this conclusion. Said he:

'I will believe it anyway; and when I get to Heaven, if it isn't true, I will just tell the Lord I didn't make the mistake--the translators made it.'


A few years ago, at the mouth of Cleveland harbor, there were two lights, one at each side of the bay, called the upper and lower lights; and to enter the harbor safely by night, vessels must sight both of the lights.

These western lakes are sometimes more dangerous than the great ocean. One wild, stormy night, a steamer was trying to make her way into the harbor. The captain and pilot were anxiously watching for the lights. By and by the pilot was heard to say, "Do you see the lower light?"

"No," was the reply: "I fear we have passed them."

"Ah, there are the lights," said the pilot;" and they must be, from the bluff on which they stand, the upper lights. We have passed the lower lights, and have lost our chance of getting into the harbor."

What was to be done? They looked back, and saw the dim outline of the lower lighthouse against the sky. the lights had gone out.

"Can't you turn your head around?"

"No; the night is too wild for that. She wont answer to her helm."

The storm was so fearful that they could do nothing. They tried again to make for the harbor, but they went crash against the rocks, and sank to the bottom. Very few escaped; the great majority found a watery grave. Why? Simply because the lower lights had gone out.

Now with us the upper light is. all right. Christ himself is the upper light, and we are the lower lights, and the cry to us is, Keep the lower lights burning; that is what we have to do.


I have no sympathy with the idea that our children have to grow up before they are converted. Once I saw a lady with three daughters at her side, and I stepped up to her and asked her if she was a Christian.

"Yes, sir."

Then I asked the oldest daughter if she was a Christian. The chin began to quiver, and the tears came into her eyes, and she said:

"I wish I was."

The mother looked very angrily at me and said, "I don't want you to speak to my children on that subject. They don't understand." And in great rage she took them away from me. One daughter was fourteen years old, one twelve, and the other ten, but they were not old enough to be talked to about religion! Let them drift into the world and plunge into worldly amusements, and then see how hard it is to reach them. Many a mother is mourning to-day because her boy has gone beyond her reach, and will not allow her to pray with him. She may pray for him, but he will not let her pray or talk with him. In those early days when his mind was tender and young, she might have led him to Christ. Bring them in. "Suffer the little children to come unto Me."

Is there a prayerless father reading this? May God let the arrow go down into your soul! Make up your mind that, God helping you, you will get the children converted. God's order is to the father first, but if he isn't true to his duty, then the mother should be true, and save the children from the wreck. Now is the time to do it while you have them under your roof. Exert your parental influence over them.


Some years ago at a convention, an old judge was telling about the mighty power Christians summon to their aid in this petition for Christ's sake;" "in Jesus' name;" and he told a story that made a great impression on me. When the war came on, he said, his only son left for the army, and he became suddenly interested in soldiers. Every soldier that passed by brought his son to remembrance; he could see his son in him. He went to work for soldiers. When a sick soldier came there to Columbus one day, so weak he couldn't walk, the judge took him in a carriage, and. got him into the Soldiers' Home. Soon he became president of the Soldiers' Home in Columbus, and used to go down every day and spend hours in looking after those soldiers, and seeing that they had every comfort. He spent on them a great deal of time and a great deal of money.

One day he said to his wife; "I'm giving too much time to these soldiers. I've got to stop it. There's an important case coming on in court, and I've got to attend to my own business."

He said he went down to the office that morning resolved in future to let the soldiers alone. He went to his desk, and then to writing. Pretty soon the door opened, and he saw a soldier hobble slowly in. He started at sight of him. The man was fumbling at something in his breast, and pretty soon he got out an old soiled paper. The father saw it was his own son's writing.

"Dear Father:-

"This young man belongs to my company. He has lost his leg and his health in defense of his country, and he is going home to his mother to die. If he calls on you, treat him kindly, "For Charlie's Sake."

"For Charlie's Sake." The moment he saw that, a pang went to his heart. He sent for a carriage, lifted the maimed soldier in, drove home, put him into Charlie's room, sent for the family physician, kept him in the family and treated him for his own son. When the young soldier got well enough to go to the train to go home to his mother, he took him to the railway station, put him in the nicest, most comfortable place in the carriage, and sent him on his way.

"I did it," said the old judge, "for Charlie's sake."

Now whatsoever you do, my friend, do it for the Lord Jesus' sake. Do and ask everything in the name of Him "who loved us and gave Himself for us."


There is a beautiful tradition connected with the site on which the temple of Solomon was erected. It is said to have been occupied in common by two brothers, one of whom had a family, the other had none. On this spot was sown a field of wheat. On the evening succeeding the harvest - the wheat having been gathered in separate shocks - the elder brother said to his wife:

"My younger brother is unable to bear the burden and heat of the day; I will arise, take of my shocks and place with his without his knowledge."

The younger brother being actuated by the same benevolent motives, said within himself;

"My elder brother has a family; and I have none. I will arise, take of my shocks and place with his."

Judge of their mutual astonishment, when, on the following day, they found their respective shocks undiminished. This transpired for several nights, when each resolved in his own mind to stand guard and solve the mystery. They did so; and on the following night they met each other half-way between their respective shocks with their arms full. Upon ground hallowed by such associations as this was the temple of Solomon erected - of the world! Alas! in these days, how many would sooner steal their brother's whole shock than add to it a single sheaf!


During the Indian mutiny, the English were besieged in the city of Lucknow, and were in momentary expectation of perishing at the hands of the fiends that surrounded them. A little Scotch lassie was in this fort, and, while lying on the ground, she suddenly shouted, her face aglow with joy:

"Dinna ye hear them comin'? dinna ye hear them comin'?

"Hear what?" they asked.

"Dinna ye hear them comin?"

She sprang to her feet. It was the bagpipes of her native Scotland she heard. It was a native air she heard that was being played by a regiment of her countrymen marching to the relief of those captives, and these deliverers made them free.

Oh, friend, don't you hear the voice of Jesus Christ calling to you now?


An interesting story is told of Professor Drummond. He was staying with a lady whose coachman had signed the pledge, but afterward gave way to drink. This lady said to the professor, "Now this man will drive you to the station; say a word to him if you can. He is a good man and really wants to reform; but he is weak."

While they were driving to the station, the professor tried to think how he could introduce the subject. Suddenly the horses were frightened and tried to run away. The driver held on to the reins and managed them well. The carriage swayed about, and the professor expected every moment to be upset, but after a little the man got the better of the team, and as he drew them up at the station, streaming with perspiration, he exclaimed: "That was a close shave, sir! Our trap might have been smashed into matchwood, and you wouldn't have given any more addresses."

"Well," said Professor Drummond, "how was it that it did not happen?"

"Why," was the reply, "because I knew how to manage the horses."

"Now," said the professor, "look here, my friend, I will give you a bit of advice. Here's my train coming. I hear you have been signing the pledge and breaking out again. Now I want to give you a bit of advice. Throw the reins of your life to Jesus Christ." And' he jumped down, and got into the train.

The driver saw in a flash where he had made the mistake, and from that day ceased to try to live in his own strength.


Some years ago a remarkable picture was exhibited in London, As you looked at it from a distance, you seemed to see a monk engaged in prayer, his hands clasped, his head bowed. As you came nearer, however, and examined the painting more closely, you saw that in reality he was squeezing a lemon into a punch bowl.

What a picture that is of the human heart! Superficially examined, it is thought to be the seat of all that is good and noble and pleasing in a man; whereas in reality, until regenerated by the Holy Ghost, it is the seat of all corruption. "This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light."


A fearful storm was raging, when the cry was heard, "Man overboard!"

A human form was seen manfully breasting the furious elements in the direction of the shore; but the raging waves bore the struggler rapidly outward, and ere the boats could be lowered, a fearful space separated the victim from help. Above the shriek of the storm and the roar of the waters rose his rending cry. It was an 'agonizing moment. With bated breath and blanched cheek, every eye was strained to the struggling man. Manfully did the brave rowers strain every nerve in this race of mercy; but all their efforts were in vain. One wild shriek of despair, and the victim went down. A piercing cry, "Save him, save him!" rang through the hushed crowd; and into their midst darted an agitated man; throwing his arms wildly in the air, shouting, "A thousand pounds for the man who saves his life!" but his staring eyes rested only on the spot where the waves rolled remorselessly over the perished. He whose strong cry broke the stillness of the crowd was captain of the ship from whence the drowned man fell, and was his brother.

This is the feeling we should have in the various ranks of those bearing commission under the great Captain of our salvation, "Save him! he is my brother."

The fact is, men do not believe in Christianity because they think we are not in earnest about it. When the people see that we are in earnest in all that we undertake for God, they will begin to tremble; men and women will be inquiring the way to Zion.


There is a preacher in Edinburgh, but I never think of him as a preacher, although he is one of the finest preachers in Scotland. There is just one act associated with that man that I will carry in remembrance to the grave.

There is a hospital for little children in Edinburgh, and that great minister, with a large parish and a large congregation, goes one afternoon every week and sits down and talks with those little children - good many of them there for life; they are incurable. One day he found a little boy, only six years old, who had been brought over from Fife. The little fellow was in great distress because the doctors were coming to take off his leg. Think how you would feel, if you had a little brother six years old and he was taken off to the hospital, and the doctor said that he was coming forty-eight hours afterward to take off his leg!

Well, that minister tried to comfort the boy, and said: "Your father will come to be with you.

"No," he said, "my father is dead; he cannot be here."

"Well, your mother will come."

"My mother is over in Fife. She is sick and cannot come.

The minister himself could not come, so he said, "Well, you know the matron here is a mother; she has got a great big heart."

The little chin began to quiver as the little boy said: "Perhaps Jesus will be with me."

Do you have any doubt of it? Next Friday the man of God went to the hospital; but he found the cot was empty. The poor boy was gone: the Saviour had come and taken him to His bosom.

One little act of kindness will often live a good deal longer than a most magnificent sermon.


Some old divine has pictured Peter preaching on the day of Pentecost. A man pushed his way through the crowd, and said, "Peter, do you think there is hope for me? I am the man who made that crown of thorns and placed them upon Christ's brow; do you think He will save me?"

"Yes," said Peter, "'Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.' You are a 'whosoever;' if you call He will hear your cry. He will answer your prayer and save you. The man might have cried then and there, and the Lord saved him.

Another man pushed his way up and said to Peter, "I am the man who took that reed out of His hand, and drove it down upon that cruel crown of thorns, sending it into His brow; do you think He will save me?"

"Yes," said Peter, "He told us to go into the world and preach the Gospel to every creature, and He did not mean any to be left out; salvation is for you. He did not come to condemn men; He came to get His arm under the vilest sinner and lift him up toward Heaven."

Another man, elbowing his way through the crowd, pushed up to Peter, and said, "I am the Roman soldier who took the spear and drove it to His heart, when there came out blood and water; do you think there is hope for me?"

"Yes," said Peter, "there's a nearer way of reaching His heart than that; 'whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.'" And the Roman soldier might have cried then and there, and might have obtained forgiveness and salvation.

If the Lord heard the cry of those Jerusalem sinners whose hands were dripping with the blood of the Son of God - if He heard their cry and saved them, do you not think he will hear your cry and save you?


A person once said to me: "I hate your God; your God demands blood. I don't believe in such a God. My God is merciful to all. I do not know your God."

If you turn to Lev. xvii. ii, you will find why God demands blood: "For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the souls."

Suppose there was a law that man should not steal, but no penalty was attached to stealing; some man would have my pocketbook before dinner. If I threatened to have him arrested, he would snap his fingers in my face. He would not fear the law, if there was no penalty. It is not the law that people are afraid of; it is the penalty attached.

Do you suppose God has made a law without a penalty What an absurd thing it would be. Now the penalty for sin is death; "The soul that sinneth it shall die." I must die, or get somebody to die for me. If the Bible doesn't teach that, it doesn't teach anything. And that is where the atonement of Jesus Christ comes in.


Mr. Moody once told me that he was conducting meetings in Scotland, passing through an inquiry meeting he saw two little girls crying as if their hearts would break. He stopped long enough to ask them their difficulty, and one of them replied that she wanted to be a Christian. The great evangelist took his Bible and, opening it at the fifth chapter of John, the 24th verse, he asked her if she could receive that, and, with her face brightening, she said she thought she could and would. The next night, passing through the same room, he saw the same two girls upon their knees, and one of them crying bitterly. He was greatly perplexed, and, coming near enough to hear their conversation, he heard the child of the night before saying to her companion, "I say, lassie, you do just as I did, grip a promise and hold on to it, and he will save you, for he saved me." And this is true not only for the Scotch girl, but for every one who will simply take God's Word and trust Him fully.


The following illustration of Dr. Gordon was much loved by Mr. Moody.

Very tiny and pale the little girl looked as she stood before those three grave and dignified gentlemen. She had been ushered into the Rev. Dr. Gordon's study, where he was holding counsel with two of his deacons, and now, upon inquiry into the nature. Of her errand, a little shyly preferred the request to be allowed to become a member of his church.

"You are quite too young to join the church," said one of the deacons, "you had better run home, and let us talk to your mother."

She showed no sign of running, however, as her wistful blue eyes traveled from one face to another of the three gentlemen sitting in their comfortable chairs; she only drew a little step nearer to Dr. Gordon. He arose, and with the gentle courtesy that ever marked him, placed her in a small chair close beside himself.

"Now my child, tell me your name, and where you live?'

"Annie Graham, sir, and I live on K_________ Street. I go to your Sunday-school."

"You do; and who is your teacher?"

"Miss B_______ . She is very good to me."

"And you want to join my church?"

The child's face glowed as she leaned eagerly towards him, clasping her hands, but all she said was, "Yes, sir."

"She cannot be more than six years old," said one of the deacons, disapprovingly.

Dr. Gordon said nothing, but quietly regarded the small, earnest face, now becoming a little downcast.

"I am ten years old; older than I look," she said.

"It is not usual for us to admit anyone so young to membership," he said, thoughtfully.

"We never have done so still

"It may make an undesirable precedent," remarked the other deacon.

The Doctor did not seem to hear, as he asked, "You know what joining the church is, Annie?"

"Yes, sir;" and she answered a few questions that proved she comprehended the meaning of the step she wished to take. She had slipped off her chair, and now stood close to Dr. Gordon's knee.

You said, last Sabbath, sir, that the lambs should be in the fold

"I did," he answered. "It is surely not for us to keep them out. Go home now, my child. I will see your friends and arrange to take you into membership very soon.

The cloud lifted from the child's face, and her expression, as she passed through the door he opened for her, was one of entire peace.

Inquiries made of Annie's Sabbath school teacher proving satisfactory, she was baptized the following week, and, except for occasional information from Miss B., that she was doing well, Dr. Gordon heard no more of her for about a year.

Then he was summoned to her funeral.

It was one of June's hottest days, and as the doctor made his way along the narrow street on which Annie had lived, he wished, for a moment, that he had asked his assistant to come instead of himself, but as he neared the house, the crowd filled him with wonder; progress was hindered, and as perforce he paused for a moment, his eye fell on a crippled lad crying bitterly as he sat on a low doorstep.

"Do you know Annie Graham, my lad?" he asked.

"Know her, is it, sir? Niver a week passed but what she came twice or thrice with a picture or book, mayhap an apple for me, an' its owin' to her an' no clargy at all that I'll ever follow her blessed footsteps to Heaven. She'd read me from her own Bible whiniver she came, an now she's gone there'll be none at all to help me, for mother's dead an' dad's drunk, an' the sunshine's gone from Mike's sky with Annie, sir."

A burst of sobs choked the boy. Dr. Gordon passed on, after promising him a visit soon, making his way through the crowd of tear-stained, sorrowful faces. The doctor came to a stop again in the narrow passageway of the little house. A woman stood beside him drying her fast-falling tears, while a wee child hid his face in her skirts and wept.

"Was Annie a relative of yours?" the doctor asked.

"No, sir; but the blessed child was at our house constantly, and when Bob here was sick she nursed and tended him, and her hymns quieted him when nothing else seemed to do it. It was just the same with all the neighbors. What she's been to us no one but the Lord will ever know, and now she lies there."

Recognized at last, Dr. Gordon was led to the room where the child lay at rest, looking almost younger than when he had seen her in his study a year ago. An old bent woman was crying aloud by the coffin.

"I never thought she'd go afore I did. She used to run in regular to read an' sing to me every evening, an' it was her talk an' prayers that made a Christian of me. You could a'most go to Heaven on one of her prayers."

"Mother, mother, come home," said a young man, putting his arm around her to lead her away. "You'll see her again.

"I know, I know; she said she'd wait for me at the gate," she sobbed, as she followed him; "but I miss her sore now.

A silence fell on those assembled, and, marvelling at such testimony, Dr. Gordon proceeded with the service, feeling as if there was little more he could say of one whose deeds thus spoke for her. Loving hands had laid flowers all around the child who had lead them. One young girl had placed a dandelion in the small waxen fingers and now stood, abandoned to grief, beside the still form that bore the impress of absolute purity. The service over again and again was the coffin lid waved back by some one longing for one more look, and they seemed as if they could not let her go.

The next day a good-looking man came to Dr. Gordon's house and was admitted into his study.

"I am Annie's uncle, sir," he said simply. "She never rested till she made me promise to join the church, and I've come.

Dr. Gordon sat in the twilight, resting, after his visitor had left. The summer breeze blew in through the windows and his thoughts turned backward and dwelt on what his little parishioner had done.

"Truly a marvelous record for one year. It is well said, Their angels do ever behold His face."

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