Chapter 33 - Personal Reminiscences of D.L. Moody

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By Rex. H. M. Wharton, D.D.: An Estimate of Mr. Moody, based on intimate association with him and long knowledge of his work.

By Rex H.M. Wharton, D.D.

About twenty years ago, having just concluded in the city of Alexandria, Virginia, the second evangelistic meeting I had ever held, I determined to go to Baltimore in order to hear Mr. Moody, whose fame as a worker for Christ in the salvation of men was filling the world. Mr. Moody was spending the winter in the city of Baltimore, and I found difficulty, being an entire stranger, to gain access to the crowded building the one afternoon it was my privilege to hear him.

By good fortune, I met a minister with whom I had become acquainted some months before. He took me through the pastor's study to the platform. It was in this study that I saw Mr. Moody walking back and forth, his hands behind him, and apparently in deep thought. He shook hands with me, and with hardly an exchange of words put into my hands several circulars which he asked me to give to others as I went home. I found it to be a call to Christian workers to go forth into the harvest field. He preached that afternoon on Repentance, and I well remember something of the sermon, and especially his illustrations.

The years passed on and I became pastor in the City of Baltimore. One afternoon, I think it was in, 92, I was standing in front of Mr. Moody in the great Cyclorama Building, where thousands had assembled for services, the choir was singing, and I think the Scriptures had been read. I did not, of course, suppose that he would recognize me, and was surprised when he looked down and said suddenly, "Come up on the platform." As I was sure he did not know me, I turned to a minister at my side, a prominent pastor of the city, and said, "He is calling you." He started to the platform when Mr. Moody said he wanted me, and as soon as I walked up, he said, "I want you to speak to the people right away." With hardly any notice at all I made some remarks, and before I left that afternoon he had asked me to go to Chicago. It occurred to me afterwards that he had possibly heard that I had been doing some evangelistic work and, being told that I was in the audience, called me up, and was taking a sample to find if I would do as a Chicago worker.


It did not take him long to make a decision when facts were before him. Upon my arrival at Chicago it was a great privilege to know that one of the blessings in store for me was a closer personal acquaintance with Mr. Moody. Three times a day, with few exceptions, I sat by his side at the table, and was often in his room, which was regarded as headquarters. Every night when we came in from our places of preaching - halls, churches, tents, theatres, we would meet around a large table in his room and enjoy refreshments and a most delightful social hour, as we discussed the work of the Master, or indulged in innocent jest and merriment. Mr. Moody was fond of a joke. He would tell a good story, and no man had a keener relish for it than he.

It is said of Spurgeon that there was such a hearty good humor about him, and over all and through all such an atmosphere of genuine piety, that, though he had convulsed a party by a lively joke, he could turn at once and say, "Now let us have a word of prayer," and all go smiling into the father's presence It would seem altogether the right thing to do. The same may be said of Mr Moody. And it mattered little if the laugh turned on himself, he enjoyed it just the same.


Here is one I heard him tell one day at the table. First speaking in complimentary terms of the "Mountain Evangelist," George O. Barnes, of Kentucky, he said: "I got him here to preach once many years ago. We worked hard and lived on bread and cheese. One night when I was absent he preached a sermon on 'The Devil!' I insisted that he must repeat it for my benefit, and I worked up a crowd for Saturday night. I had been out all day trying to raise money, and came home at five o'clock tired and hungry. In addition to the crackers and cheese I bought some bologna sausage. I never tasted anything better than that bologna, and I just ate it until I didn't want any more. That night I was to preside and I sat behind Barnes. He hadn't been preaching long before I got so sleepy I could not hold my eyes open any way I could fix it. I got out a pin and stuck myself with it, but nothing would do. I had been banging the people a good deal for going to sleep, and when they saw me it was all they wanted. They would not keep still. Barnes saw something was the matter. He could not get hold of them, and by and by he turned and looked at me, and saw what was up. The next day someone said some-thing to Barnes about it, he said, 'Well, Moody is pretty hard to down; but last night the devil and bologna did the work for him.'" It was comforting to hear Mr. Moody say that he also put people to sleep sometimes. Well, so did Paul, and may be you have also. If you are a preacher, then you know yourself.

Mr. Moody was a great general. He was a great thinker, and planned his work even to the smallest details. He looked after the food and rest and recreation of his workers. Even his carriage horse must have at least one day's rest in seven. It did not matter to him what 'day you took as Sabbath or rest day, but it must be one in seven. He was the only one who did not rest as much as he should. I organized a strike one day, and informed him that if he did not take a day in seven we would go out on a strike and walk the streets until he gave in. When we came from our work that night we found he had rested, and I told him the threatened strike was having good effect.


Everybody loved him, men, women and children. Although he had enough on his mind to keep a dozen men busy, he so arranged that the work was easily divided out, and he stood at the helm. But he was always ready to have a pleasant word with man, woman or child as they chanced to come his way. Nothing could be more enjoyable than his evening chats with the workers as they came in from their fields in all parts of the city to give an account of their labors. - a picture in minature of the time when we shall all go from the harvest field home to meet our great Leader and Commander, and tell him of the joys and sorrows, the trials and triumphs of our life work on earth.

Mr. Moody was a wise level-headed man. He had a great deal of common sense. You could hardly get an off-hand expression of opinion from him. He heard what others had to say, but reserved his judgment until all the facts were before him; then when he spoke it was worth hearing. His conduct with reference to the Congress of Religions was a noticeable instance. When this ecclesiastical menagerie, gathered from all quarters of the globe, made its appearance, Mr. Moody was asked again and again to take part. He only replied that he had his hands full of work, and declined to go. When it seemed to some of us that our Lord was belittled and disgraced by the motley crew who disported: themselves upon the platform day by day in the wonderful "Parliament," we suggested that we should attack them all along the line. Mr. Moody was very emphatic in his instructions. "Preach Christ," said he, "hold up Christ; let the Parliament of Religions alone, preach Christ." And he was right. The many-colored bubble burst, and went to thin air. It will hardly be known in history. Christ lives and reigns; let us live for Him and preach His blessed Gospel.


Mr. Moody was a fine business man. If he had turned his attention to earthly, instead of heavenly things, he would have been a millionaire many times over. He had the happy faculty of dispatching business with great ease and rapidity, and was wise in the selection of his assistants. Over each department there is a head, whom he has chosen for that special work, and the work goes on well through and through. He looked after the smallest matters. The seating of the congregation, ventilation, arrangement of the singers, collections, all passed under his observation and direction. He was a great advertiser. He was one of the children of light, who have learned from the children of this world. The newspapers, street cars, bill posters and ticket distributors were all brought into requisition. One night when he was going to preach in the Standard Theatre - one of the hardest places - he went into barrooms and said, "Moody is going to preach in the theatre to-night, come in." They recognized him and prepared to go. The results proved his wisdom. Some Christian people seem to think that it is only necessary to open the church doors, and the outside world will break its neck trying to get in. Not so. The most attractive thing to the common mind is a circus. Men, women and children, old and young, white and colored, will run after it, and spend their last climes; and yet, when the circus comes, they plaster the country and paint the towns red with their advertisements. Let the people of God learn a lesson.

Mr. Moody had a great deal of "snap," - I hardly know what else to call it. If he could not make things, like his Master, lie could make things move, and that comes next to making them. He never allowed a service to drag, - no, not for an instant. No awkward pauses, nor weary moments of inordinate suspense. He went right on from one thing to another even unto the end. I have gone with him to a great theatre building, when we were the first in the house, except the employees who look after the building. As soon as the people came rushing in, he was ready to start the singing. Not that he sang himself. He could make "a joyful noise unto the Lord," and as a gentleman remarked when asked what he thought of his singing, "I could at least say I never heard anything like it." He would call out the numbers of the hymns, and he well knew when the singing was good. Sometimes he would call for one part of the congregation to sing, then another, then all, till they would make the house fairly tremble with the thunder tones of praise. Then several prayers, then his own sermon, usually from twenty to thirty minutes, and then close with prayer. Perhaps he would have one or two sermons more of similar length, as was often the case in Chicago meetings.


And what faith he had! He believed in the Bible from "back to back" to use his own expression. One night I heard him preach on the ark. "Come thou, and all thy house into the ark." He said some infidel perhaps has come in here, and will say, 'What does Mr. Moody want to talk about that for? Nobody believes the ark story now.' Well, if you don't, you can't believe Christ, The Son of God endorsed it. 'As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be at the coming of the Son of Man.' A good many preachers these days are trying to cut certain things out of the Bible; they had better leave the pulpit. They are doing more harm than good. Some say, 'I don't believe the fish story about the whale swallowing Jonah.' There is no trouble if you bring God on the scene. He who made the earth could make a whale big enough to swallow a man or a man big enough to swallow a whale."

Mr. Moody believed in the constant presence and guidance of the Holy Spirit. He was a worker together with God in everything. It was thrilling to hear some of his prayers with those who worked with him. On Sunday morning he would call to God for a blessing, and when the clay was done, and all met in his room, how sweet it was to kneel and be led by him in a prayer of thanksgiving for the victories of the day. With happy hearts we said "Good night," and sought our rest, rejoicing that we had been engaged in the best and most glorious work on earth.


A few summers ago, while preaching in New London, Conn., I concluded one Monday morning to go and spend a few hours at Northfield, without letting Mr. Moody know it, my sole purpose being to get a day of help and refreshing from the services he was conducting at that time. It was August, and one of his most important conferences was in session. About ten o'clock I went to the auditorium, and took a seat far back in the great congregation, just inside the door in fact, and enjoyed one of his delightful and helpful addresses. He seemed unusually well, and full of wholesome truth, which he imparted to the great joy of his large audience. After the services were over, I stepped outside the door and went to the Northfield Inn, intending to get my dinner and go back to the auditorium for a little while, then take the five o'clock train for New London, and on to Baltimore; when after dinner some one came to me and said that I was wanted at the telephone.

The well-known voice of Mr. Fitt greeted me with the startling information that Mr. Moody sent his regards, and said he wanted me to speak on the platform at four o'clock, at Roundtop at six, and again at eight in the auditorium. He would not listen though I urged that I must leave on the five o'clock train. Finally, however, he made a compromise by Mr. Moody proposing to send his carriage and take me out driving, bring me back to the auditorium in time for the services, and then to the train if I must go. To one who has been through the vales, and over the hills of beautiful Northfield, it is needless to say that in company with my good friend, Mr. Fitt, we had a charming drive, and a little after four o'clock made our way to the auditorium. When we entered, Mr. Moody called me to the platform saying, "I have been trying to get Dr. Wharton here for some time. He is here now, and we will keep him." Turning to Mr. Stebbins, he said, "You look out for that side of the platform, and I will take care of this, so he shall not get away to-day." He then announced that I would speak at six o'clock, and again at eight. There was only one thing to do, and that was as all others who came within his reach had to do, obey his commands; and it was always for the best that we did it.

The six o'clock meeting at "Roundtop, known as the open air meeting, was largely attended, and to me exceedingly enjoyable. Mr. Moody sat beside me on the grass, and led in prayer just before the address. Elijah on Mount Carmel, pleading with his God was not nearer the heart of his Father in faith and acceptableness, I am sure, than he, as he led us all in prayer that beautiful evening. 'We had a fine meeting that night in the auditorium and several interesting addresses were made, after which, at Mr. Moody's kind invitation, we went to his house, where, in company with a number of others a social hour was much enjoyed.

Mr. Moody was not easily discouraged, nor unduly elated. With all the activity of his great soul, there was still a calmness and courage characteristic of him that at once inspired hope, and kept us all at our best all the days and nights of toil. It was my privilege to be associated with him in the Central Palace Hall, in New York City, where thousands of people assembled every day listen to his preaching. It was an unusual meeting in many respects, beginning in the early morning and continuing without intermission, throughout the day, until ten o'clock at night. There were many interesting conversions in those meetings, and the words which went abroad throughout the land must have accomplished great things. At the hotel many of his co-workers were entertained, and the brief intervals of personal intercourse were always heartily enjoyed. He would invite us to his room in the morning where, with Mrs. Moody and his daughter and others, he engaged n a daily worship before beginning the duties of the day. Handing me one of Henry Drummond's books one day with an inscription in his own hand to Mrs. Wharton, he turned the leaves rapidly and said, " Look at this," and showed me a paragraph where Drummond speaks of passing to the end of a journey of life, and then, "Isn't that good, Wharton, going to the Father, going to the Father." He has gone to the Father; he went before we wanted um to go, and as it seems to us the burning and shining light was consumed all too soon. Still the Father called, and when he went away, he said we must not call him back, and we will not. He cannot return to us, but we may go to Him, and in that blessed land we shall meet to part no more. Thanks be unto God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

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