The Holy Spirit and DL Moody

I’ve just finished reading A Passion for Souls: The Life of D. L. Moody, an account of the life of the famous evangelist. I found myself surprisingly moved by his life.

DL Moody was born in Northfield, Massachusetts. His father died when he was only four years old and his mother was left caring for a large family, including twins that were born after her husband’s death. She had to send some of her children out to work at a very early age in order to survive. Barely literate in his early years, Dwight worked as a shoe salesman for his uncle in Chicago.

Following a conversation with his Sunday school teacher, Dwight became a Christian in 1855. He initially worked  with poor children off the streets, starting a Sunday school for them, and then began a church in Chicago which was burned down in the Great Chicago Fire. He was very involved with the YMCA.

His early years as an evangelist, both in the UK and in this country were very effective in terms of soul winning, mostly because of the huge amount of personal effort that he put in. He emphasized the “inquiry room,” where people received personal counseling in how to follow Jesus. After several years of intense striving, when he was near burnout, DL became convinced of his need of the Holy Spirit. Following an experience that he called “the baptism in the Holy Spirit” he became even more effective as an evangelist, preaching sometimes to crowds of tens of thousands, speaking with great power and authority and with increasing results in terms of people finding Christ. The striving that had marked his early days was gone as he trusted the Holy Spirit to work through him. He emphasized the Holy Spirit in all his teaching from this time on.

Here are some quotes from Moody’s book Secret power: or, The secret of success in Christian life and work:

“I think it is clearly taught in Scripture that every believer has the Holy Ghost dwelling in him. He may be quenching the Spirit of God, and he may not glorify God as he should, but if he is a believer on the Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Ghost dwells in him… Though Christian men and women have the Holy Spirit dwelling in them, yet He is not dwelling within them in power; in other words, God has a great many sons and daughters without power.”

“The Holy Spirit in us is one thing, and the Holy Spirit on us is another.”

“We all need it [the filling of the Holy Spirit] together, and let us not rest day nor night until we possess it; if that is the uppermost thought in our hearts, God will give it to us if we just hunger and thirst for it and say, ‘God helping me, I will not rest until endued with power from on high.’”

“The disciples of Jesus were all filled with the Spirit, and the Word was published; and when the Spirit of God comes down upon the church, and we are anointed, the Word will be published in the streets, in the lanes and in the alleys; there will not be a dark cellar nor a dark attic, nor a home where the Gospel will not be carried by some loving heart, if the Spirit comes upon God’s people in demonstration and in power.”

DL Moody’s later years were occupied in providing education, particularly for women. He founded or helped to found four schools including what is now known as the Moody Bible Institute.  He died at home in 1899.

 

 

  • http://blog.scilla.org.uk/ Chris

    Without the Spirit I have only my own strength and wisdom and insight – and how far can those take me in a broken world?

    But with the Spirit in me I’m a container for the Strength of the Almighty, wisdom far greater than Solomon’s, and the insight of Christ who ‘knew what was in a person’.
    But I only have those things as he gives them to me in the moment. If, like Jesus, I do only what I see the Father do and say only what I hear the Father say then the strength, wisdom and insight are his and I act as he leads.

    And I think that was Moody’s secret – to do and say what he saw and heard from the Father through the indwelling Spirit. What’s more, he was able to recognise the same in others – see for example his introduction to Henry Drummond’s essay ‘The Greatest Thing in the World’ ( scilla.org.uk/2011/01/announcement-greatest-thing-republished.html )

    • felicitydale

      Chris,
      Having read the story of Moody’s life, there was an obvious time when what you describe became a reality for him. I’ve been amazed reading his writings and those of RA Torrey. The Holy Spirit was more real to them than he often is to many “charismatics” today.

      • http://blog.scilla.org.uk/ Chris

        You know, Felicity, when I was in my late twenties my wife and I were part of a free evangelical church in Bristol, and then another similar fellowship just west of Bristol. Both gatherings had come from a long Brethren history.

        We quickly recognised that these lovely people were full of the Spirit. This was paradoxical because they thought the gifts of the Spirit had long since ceased! Nonetheless the fruits were powerfully present and we noted with some amusement regular but unwitting forays into the prophetic.

        But the fruit are more fundamental than the gifts. Gifts without fruit are a disaster. Fruit without gifts are pretty effective. The two together are more effective still.

        Moody undoubtedly had the two together.

        • Felicity Dale

          Chris, I totally agree with you. We need the fruit, but if we are going to be effective in the harvest, we also need the power. One of the things that struck me about Moody’s life is that somehow his evangelism was more effective after he was, what he called, baptized in the Spirit.

          We often teach people of every background and theology how to prophesy. If we demystify it, and take out the “Thus saith the Lord” component, it seems that pretty much everyone can move into these areas.

  • Tom Schultz

    Many years ago as I was first exposed to the Charismatic movement and had lived in the Chicago area, I read some of what D L Moody came to believe and wonder if he would have felt at home at ‘the school that D L Moody founded…’

    • felicitydale

      Tom, Moody was very clear on the role of the Holy Spirit. I’m not that familiar with the school today, but the lady who founded what became Moody Bible Institute was very strong in her beliefs in things like healing. Moody himself was transformed when he was filled with the Holy Spirit and moved from a place of being very effective, but close to burnout, to a dependence on the Holy Spirit that resulted in powerful preaching and thousands coming under conviction. We have a lot to learn from his life.

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