Why God Used D. L. Moody
A sermon by R. A. Torrey—1923
D. L. Moody died in the last days of the 19th century. Dr. R. A. Torrey was probably his
closest associate and friend. Dr. Torrey was the first superintendent of the Moody Bible
Institute and set up a curriculum for that Bible Institute which has been a pattern for
others like it. When Moody died, Torrey soon took worldwide lead in great citywide
campaigns in Australia, England and America. In 1923 Dr. Torrey was asked to speak at
a great memorial service on “Why God Used D. L. Moody,” and this is that remarkable
address about that amazing man, probably the greatest man of his generation, as Dr.
Torrey says. The reader will notice that R. A. Torrey and D. L. Moody both used the
term, “baptized with the Holy Ghost” just as it is used in Acts 1:5 about Pentecost.
Dr. Will H. Houghton, president of Moody Bible Institute, in an edition of this little book,
Why God Used D. L. Moody, said, “But let no one quibble about an experience as
important as the filling with the Spirit. In this little book Dr. Torrey quotes Mr. Moody as
saying, in a discussion of this very matter, ‘Oh, why will they split hairs? Why don’t they
see that this is just the one thing that they themselves need? They are good teachers, they
are wonderful teachers, and I am so glad to have them here, but why will they not see that
the baptism of the Holy Ghost is just the one touch that they themselves need?’” And Dr.
Houghton further said, “The tragedy is that so many are technically correct and spiritually
powerless.” God is looking for men whom He can mightily use in winning souls. We
pray that many a reader of this booklet will earnestly decide to follow the pattern of D. L.
Moody in the qualities which made him so God could use him with mighty power to win
multitudes!—John R. Rice—[This introduction has been abridged. Further, both Torrey
and Moody’s expression ‘baptized with the Holy Ghost” is essentially identical to the
present-day term “filled with the Holy Spirit,” as Dr. Houghton notes in the first sentence
of the above paragraph.]
WHY GOD USED D. L. MOODY
by R. A. TORREY
Eighty-six years ago (February 5, 1837), there was born of poor parents in a humble
farmhouse in Northfield, Massachusetts, a little baby who was to become the greatest
man, as I believe, of his generation or of his century — Dwight L. Moody. After our great
generals, great statesmen, great scientists and great men of letters have passed away and
been forgotten, and their work and its helpful influence has come to an end, the work of
D. L. Moody will go on and its saving influence continue and increase, bringing blessing
not only to every state in the Union but to every nation on earth. Yes, it will continue
throughout the ages of eternity.
My subject is “Why God Used D. L. Moody,” and I can think of no subject upon which I
would rather speak. For I shall not seek to glorify Mr. Moody, but the God who by His
grace, His entirely unmerited favor, used him so mightily, and the Christ who saved him
by His atoning death and resurrection life, and the Holy Spirit who lived in him and
wrought through him and who alone made him the mighty power that he was to this
world. Furthermore: I hope to make it clear that the God who used D. L. Moody in his
day is just as ready to use you and me, in this day, if we, on our part, do what D. L.
Moody did, which was what made it possible for God to so abundantly use him.
The whole secret of why D. L. Moody was such a mightily used man you will find in
Psalm 62:11: “God hath spoken once; twice have I heard this; that POWER
BELONGETH UNTO GOD.” I am glad it does. I am glad that power did not belong to
D. L. Moody; I am glad that it did not belong to Charles G. Finney; I am glad that it did
not belong to Martin Luther; I am glad that it did not belong to any other Christian man
whom God has greatly used in this world’s history. Power belongs to God. If D. L.
Moody had any power, and he had great power, he got it from God.
But God does not give His power arbitrarily. It is true that He gives it to whomsoever He
will, but He wills to give it on certain conditions, which are clearly revealed in His Word;
and D. L. Moody met those conditions and God made him the most wonderful preacher
of his generation; yes, I think the most wonderful man of his generation.
But how was it that D. L. Moody had that power of God so wonderfully manifested in his
life? Pondering this question it seemed to me that there were seven things in the life of D.
L. Moody that accounted for God’s using him so largely as He did.
(1) A Fully Surrendered Man
The first thing that accounts for God’s using D. L. Moody so mightily was that he was a
fully surrendered man. Every ounce of that two-hundred-and-eighty -pound body of his
belonged to God; everything he was and everything he had, belonged wholly to God.
Now, I am not saying that Mr. Moody was perfect; he was not. If I attempted to, I
presume I could point out some defects in his character. It does not occur to me at this
moment what they were; but I am confident that I could think of some, if I tried real hard.
I have never yet met a perfect man, not one. I have known perfect men in the sense in
which the Bible commands us to be perfect, i.e., men who are wholly God’s, out and out
for God, fully surrendered to God, with no will but God’s will; but I have never known a
man in whom I could not see some defects, some places where he might have been
No, Mr. Moody was not a faultless man. If he had any flaws in his character, and he had,
I presume I was in a position to know them better than almost any other man, because of
my very close association with him in the later years of his life; and furthermore, I
suppose that in his latter days he opened his heart to me more fully than to anyone else in
the world. I think He told me some things that he told no one else. I presume I knew
whatever defects there were in his character as well as anybody. But while I recognized
such flaws, nevertheless, I know that he was a man who belonged wholly to God.
The first month I was in Chicago, we were having a talk about something upon which we
very widely differed, and Mr. Moody turned to me very frankly and very kindly and said
in defense of his own position: “Torrey, if I believed that God wanted me to jump out of
that window, I would jump.” I believe he would. If he thought God wanted him to do
anything, he would do it. He belonged wholly, unreservedly, unqualifiedly, entirely, to
Henry Varley, a very intimate friend of Mr. Moody in the earlier days of his work, loved
to tell how he once said to him: “It remains to be seen what God will do with a man who
gives himself up wholly to Him.” I am told that when Mr. Henry Varley said that, Mr.
Moody said to himself: “Well, I will be that man.” And I, for my part, do not think “it
remains to be seen” what God will do with a man who gives himself up wholly to Him. I
think it has been seen already in D. L. Moody.
If you and I are to be used in our sphere as D. L. Moody was used in his, we must put all
that we have and all that we are in the hands of God, for Him to use as He will, to send us
where He will, for God to do with us what He will, and we, on our part, to do everything
God bids us do.
There are thousands and tens of thousands of men and women in Christian work, brilliant
men and women, rarely gifted men and women, men and women who are making great
sacrifices, men and women who have put all conscious sin out of their lives, yet who,
nevertheless, have stopped short of absolute surrender to God, and therefore have stopped
short of fullness of power. But Mr. Moody did not stop short of absolute surrender to
God; he was a wholly surrendered man, and if you and I are to be used, you and I must be
wholly surrendered men and women.
(2) A Man of Prayer
The second secret of the great power exhibited in Mr. Moody’s life was that Mr. Moody
was in the deepest and most meaningful sense a man of prayer. People oftentimes say to
me: “Well, I went many miles to see and to hear D. L. Moody and he certainly was a
wonderful preacher.” Yes, D. L. Moody certainly was a wonderful preacher; taking it all
in all, the most wonderful preacher I have ever heard, and it was a great privilege to hear
him preach as he alone could preach; but out of a very intimate acquaintance with him I
wish to testify that he was a far greater prayer than he was preacher.
Time and time again, he was confronted by obstacles that seemed insurmountable, but he
always knew the way to surmount and to overcome all difficulties. He knew the way to
bring to pass anything that needed to be brought to pass. He knew and believed in the
deepest depths of his soul that “nothing was too hard for the Lord” and that prayer could
do anything that God could do.
Often times Mr. Moody would write me when he was about to undertake some new
work, saying: “I am beginning work in such and such a place on such and such a day; I
wish you would get the students together for a day of fasting and prayer” And often I
have taken those letters and read them to the students in the lecture room and said: “Mr.
Moody wants us to have a day of fasting and prayer, first for God’s blessing on our own
souls and work, and then for God’s blessing on him and his work.”
Often we were gathered in the lecture room far into the night — sometimes till one, two,
three, four or even five o’clock in the morning, crying to God, just because Mr. Moody
urged us to wait upon God until we received His blessing. How many men and women I
have known whose lives and characters have been transformed by those nights of prayer
and who have wrought mighty things in many lands because of those nights of prayer!
One day Mr. Moody drove up to my house at Northfield and said: “Torrey, I want you to
take a ride with me.” I got into the carriage and we drove out toward Lover’s Lane,
talking about some great and unexpected difficulties that had arisen in regard to the work
in Northfield and Chicago, and in connection with other work that was very dear to him.
As we drove along, some black storm clouds lay ahead of us, and then suddenly, as we
were talking, it began to rain. He drove the horse into a shed near the entrance to Lover’s
Lane to shelter the horse, and then laid the reins upon the dashboard and said: “Torrey,
pray”; and then, as best I could, I prayed, while he in his heart joined me in prayer. And
when my voice was silent he began to pray. Oh, I wish you could have heard that prayer!
I shall never forget it, so simple, so trustful, so definite and so direct and so mighty.
When the storm was over and we drove back to town, the obstacles had been surmounted,
and the work of the schools, and other work that was threatened, went on as it had never
gone on before, and it has gone on until this day.
As we drove back, Mr. Moody said to me: “Torrey, we will let the other men do the
talking and the criticizing, and we will stick to the work that God has given us to do, and
let Him take care of the difficulties and answer the criticisms.”
On one occasion Mr. Moody said to me in Chicago: “I have just found, to my surprise,
that we are twenty thousand dollars behind in our finances for the work here and in
Northfield, and we must have that twenty thousand dollars, and I am going to get it by
He did not tell a soul who had the ability to give a penny of the twenty thousand dollars’
deficit, but looked right to God and said: “I need twenty thousand dollars for my work;
send me that money in such a way that I will know it comes straight from Thee.” And
God heard that prayer. The money came in such a way that it was clear that it came from
God in direct answer to prayer.
Yes, D. L. Moody was a man who believed in the God who answers prayer, and not only
believed in Him in a theoretical way but believed in Him in a practical way. He was a
man who met every difficulty that stood in his way — by prayer. Everything he undertook
was backed up by prayer, and in everything, his ultimate dependence was upon God.
(3) A Deep and Practical Student of the Bible
The third secret of Mr. Moody’s power, or the third reason why God used D. L. Moody,
was because he was a deep and practical student of the Word of God. Nowadays it is
often said of D. L. Moody that he was not a student. I wish to say that he was a student;
most emphatically he was a student. He was not a student of psychology; he was not a
student of anthropology — I am very sure he would not have known what that word
meant; he was not a student of biology; he was not a student of philosophy; he was not
even a student of theology, in the technical sense of the term; but he was a student, a
profound and practical student of the one Book that is more worth studying than all other
books in the world put together; he was a student of the Bible.
Every day of his life, I have reason for believing, he arose very early in the morning to
study the Word of God, way down to the close of his life. Mr. Moody used to rise about
four o’clock in the morning to study the Bible. He would say to me: “If I am going to get
in any study, I have got to get up before the other folks get up”; and he would shut
himself up in a remote room in his house, alone with his God and his Bible.
I shall never forget the first night I spent in his home. He had invited me to take the
superintendency of the Bible Institute and I had already begun my work; I was on my
way to some city in the East to preside at the International Christian Workers’
Convention. He wrote me saying: “Just as soon as the Convention is over, come up to
Northfield.” He learned when I was likely to arrive and drove over to South Vernon to
meet me. That night he had all the teachers from the Mount Hermon School and from the
Northfield Seminary come together at the house to meet me, and to talk over the
problems of the two schools. We talked together far on into the night, and then, after the
principals and teachers of the schools had gone home, Mr. Moody and I talked together
about the problems a while longer.
It was very late when I got to bed that night, but very early the next morning, about five
o’clock, I heard a gentle tap on my door. Then I heard Mr. Moody’s voice whispering:
“Torrey, are you up?”
I happened to be; I do not always get up at that early hour but I happened to be up that
particular morning. He said: “I want you to go somewhere with me,” and I went down
with him. Then I found out that he had already been up an hour or two in his room
studying the Word of God.
Oh, you may talk about power; but, if you neglect the one Book that God has given you
as the one instrument through which He imparts and exercises His power, you will not
have it. You may read many books and go to many conventions and you may have your
all-night prayer meetings to pray for the power of the Holy Ghost; but unless you keep in
constant and close association with the one Book, the Bible, you will not have power.
And if you ever had power, you will not maintain it except by the daily, earnest, intense
study of that Book.
Ninety-nine Christians in every hundred are merely playing at Bible study; and therefore
ninety-nine Christians in every hundred are mere weaklings, when they might be giants,
both in their Christian life and in their service. It was largely because of his thorough
knowledge of the Bible, and his practical knowledge of the Bible, that Mr. Moody drew
such immense crowds. On “Chicago Day,” in October 1893, none of the theaters of
Chicago dared to open because it was expected that everybody in Chicago would go on
that day to the World’s Fair; and, in point of fact, something like four hundred thousand
people did pass through the gates of the Fair that day. Everybody in Chicago was
expected to be at that end of the city on that day. But Mr. Moody said to me: “Torrey,
engage the Central Music Hall and announce meetings from nine o’clock in the morning
till six o’clock at night.” “Why,” I replied, “Mr. Moody, nobody will be at this end of
Chicago on that day; not even the theaters dare to open; everybody is going down to
Jackson Park to the Fair; we cannot get anybody out on this day.”
Mr. Moody replied: “You do as you are told”; and I did as I was told and engaged the
Central Music Hall for continuous meetings from nine o’clock in the morning till six
o’clock at night. But I did it with a heavy heart; I thought there would be poor audiences.
I was on the program at noon that day. Being very busy in my office about the details of
the campaign, I did not reach the Central Music Hall till almost noon. I thought I would
have no trouble in getting in. But when I got almost to the Hall I found to my amazement
that not only was it packed but the vestibule was packed and the steps were packed, and
there was no getting anywhere near the door; and if I had not gone round and climbed in
a back window they would have lost their speaker for that hour. But that would not have
been of much importance, for the crowds had not gathered to hear me; it was the magic of
Mr. Moody’s name that had drawn them. And why did they long to hear Mr. Moody?
Because they knew that while he was not versed in many of the philosophies and fads and
fancies of the day, he did know the one Book that this old world most longs to know —
I shall never forget Moody’s last visit to Chicago. The ministers of Chicago had sent me
to Cincinnati to invite him to come to Chicago and hold a meeting. In response to the
invitation, Mr. Moody said to me: “If you will hire the Auditorium for weekday mornings
and afternoons and have meetings at ten in the morning and three in the afternoon, I will
go.” I replied: “Mr. Moody, you know what a busy city Chicago is, and how impossible it
is for businessmen to get out at ten o’clock in the morning and three in the afternoon on
working days. Will you not hold evening meetings and meetings on Sunday?” “No,” he
replied, “I am afraid if I did, I would interfere with the regular work of the churches.”
I went back to Chicago and engaged the Auditorium, which at that time was the building
having the largest seating capacity of any building in the city, seating in those days about
seven thousand people; I announced weekday meetings, with Mr. Moody as the speaker,
at ten o’clock in the mornings and three o’clock in the afternoons.
At once protests began to pour in upon me. One of them came from Marshall Field, at
that time the business king of Chicago. “Mr. Torrey,” Mr. Field wrote, “we businessmen
of Chicago wish to hear Mr. Moody, and you know perfectly well how impossible it is
for us to get out at ten o’clock in the morning and three o’clock in the afternoon; have
evening meetings.” I received many letters of a similar purport and wrote to Mr. Moody
urging him to give us evening meetings. But Mr. Moody simply replied: “You do as you
are told,” and I did as I was told; that is the way I kept my job. On the first morning of the
meetings I went down to the Auditorium about half an hour before the appointed time,
but I went with much fear and apprehension; I thought the Auditorium would be nowhere
nearly full. When I reached there, to my amazement I found a queue of people four
abreast extending from the Congress Street entrance to Wabash Avenue, then a block
north on Wabash Avenue, then a break to let traffic through, and then another block, and
so on. I went in through the back door, and there were many clamoring for entrance there.
When the doors were opened at the appointed time, we had a cordon of twenty policemen
to keep back the crowd; but the crowd was so great that it swept the cordon of policemen
off their feet and packed eight thousand people into the building before we could get the
doors shut. And I think there were as many left on the outside as there were in the
building. I do not think that anyone else in the world could have drawn such a crowd at
such a time.
Why? Because though Mr. Moody knew little about science or philosophy or literature in
general, he did know the one Book that this old world is perishing to know and longing to
know; and this old world will flock to hear men who know the Bible and preach the Bible
as they will flock to hear nothing else on earth.
During all the months of the World’s Fair in Chicago, no one could draw such crowds as
Mr. Moody. Judging by the papers, one would have thought that the great religious event
in Chicago at that time was the World’s Congress of Religions. One very gifted man of
letters in the East was invited to speak at this Congress. He saw in this invitation the
opportunity of his life and prepared his paper, the exact title of which I do not now recall,
but it was something along the line of “New Light on the Old Doctrines.” He prepared
the paper with great care, and then sent it around to his most trusted and gifted friends for
criticisms. These men sent it back to him with such emendations as they had to suggest.
Then he rewrote the paper, incorporating as many of the suggestions and criticisms as
seemed wise. Then he sent it around for further criticisms. Then he wrote the paper a
third time, and had it, as he trusted, perfect. He went on to Chicago to meet this coveted
opportunity of speaking at the Worlds Congress of Religions.
It was at eleven o’clock on a Saturday morning (if I remember correctly) that he was to
speak. He stood outside the door of the platform waiting for the great moment to arrive,
and as the clock struck eleven he walked on to the platform to face a magnificent
audience of eleven women and two men! But there was not a building anywhere in
Chicago that would accommodate the very same day the crowds that would flock to hear
Mr. Moody at any hour of the day or night.
Oh, men and women, if you wish to get an audience and wish to do that audience some
good after you get them, study, study, STUDY the one Book, and preach, preach,
PREACH the one Book, and teach, teach, TEACH the one Book, the Bible, the only
Book that is God’s Word, and the only Book that has power to gather and hold and bless
the crowds for any great length of time.
(4) A Humble Man
The fourth reason why God continuously, through so many years, used D.L. Moody was
because he was a humble man. I think D. L. Moody was the humblest man I ever knew in
all my life. He loved to quote the words of another; “Faith gets the most; love works the
most; but humility keeps the most.”
He himself had the humility that keeps everything it gets. As I have already said, he was
the most humble man I ever knew, i.e., the most humble man when we bear in mind the
great things that he did, and the praise that was lavished upon him. Oh, how he loved to
put himself in the background and put other men in the foreground. How often he would
stand on a platform with some of us little fellows seated behind him and as he spoke he
would say: “There are better men coming after me.” As he said it, he would point back
over his shoulder with his thumb to the “little fellows.” I do not know how he could
believe it, but he really did believe that the others that were coming after him were really
better than he was. He made no pretense to a humility he did not possess. In his heart of
hearts he constantly underestimated himself, and overestimated others.
He really believed that God would use other men in a larger measure than he had been
used. Mr. Moody loved to keep himself in the background. At his conventions at
Northfield, or anywhere else, he would push the other men to the front and, if he could,
have them do all the preaching — McGregor, Campbell Morgan, Andrew Murray, and
the rest of them. The only way we could get him to take any part in the program was to
get up in the convention and move that we hear D. L. Moody at the next meeting. He
continually put himself out of sight.
Oh, how many a man has been full of promise and God has used him, and then the man
thought that he was the whole thing and God was compelled to set him aside! I believe
more promising workers have gone on the rocks through self-sufficiency and self-esteem
than through any other cause. I can look back for forty years, or more, and think of many
men who are now wrecks or derelicts who at one time the world thought were going to be
something great. But they have disappeared entirely from the public view. Why? Because
of overestimation of self. Oh, the men and women who have been put aside because they
began to think that they were somebody, that they were “IT,” and therefore God was
compelled to set them aside.
I remember a man with whom I was closely associated in a great movement in this
country. We were having a most successful convention in Buffalo, and he was greatly
elated. As we walked down the street together to one of the meetings one day, he said to
me: “Torrey, you and I are the most important men in Christian work in this country,” or
words to that effect. I replied: “John, I am sorry to hear you say that; for as I read my
Bible I find man after man who had accomplished great things whom God had to set
aside because of his sense of his own importance.” And God set that man aside also from
that time. I think he is still living, but no one ever hears of him, or has heard of him for
God used D. L. Moody, I think, beyond any man of his day; but it made no difference
how much God used him, he never was puffed up. One day, speaking to me of a great
New York preacher, now dead, Mr. Moody said: “He once did a very foolish thing, the
most foolish thing that I ever knew a man, ordinarily so wise as he was, to do. He came
up to me at the close of a little talk I had given and said: ‘Young man, you have made a
great address tonight.’” Then Mr. Moody continued: “How foolish of him to have said
that! It almost turned my head.” But, thank God, it did not turn his head, and even when
pretty much all the ministers in England, Scotland and Ireland, and many of the English
bishops were ready to follow D. L. Moody wherever he led, even then it never turned his
head one bit. He would get down on his face before God, knowing he was human, and
ask God to empty him of all self-sufficiency. And God did.
Oh, men and women! especially young men and young women, perhaps God is
beginning to use you; very likely people are saying: “What a wonderful gift he has as a
Bible teacher, what power he has as a preacher, for such a young man!” Listen: get down
upon your face before God. I believe here lies one of the most dangerous snares of the
Devil. When the Devil cannot discourage a man, he approaches him on another tack,
which he knows is far worse in its results; he puffs him up by whispering in his ear: “You
are the leading evangelist of the day. You are the man who will sweep everything before
you. You are the coming man. You are the D. L. Moody of the day”; and if you listen to
him, he will ruin you. The entire shore of the history of Christian workers is strewn with
the wrecks of gallant vessels that were full of promise a few years ago, but these men
became puffed up and were driven on the rocks by the wild winds of their own raging
(5) His Entire Freedom from the Love of Money
The fifth secret of D. L. Moody’s continual power and usefulness was his entire freedom
from the love of money. Mr. Moody might have been a wealthy man, but money had no
charms for him. He loved to gather money for God’s work; he refused to accumulate
money for himself. He told me during the World’s Fair that if he had taken, for himself,
the royalties on the hymnbooks which he had published, they would have amounted, at
that time, to a million dollars. But Mr. Moody refused to touch the money. He had a
perfect right to take it, for he was responsible for the publication of the books and it was
his money that went into the publication of the first of them.
Mr. Sankey had some hymns that he had taken with him to England and he wished to
have them published. He went to a publisher (I think Morgan & Scott) and they declined
to publish them, because, as they said, Philip Phillips had recently been over and
published a hymnbook and it had not done well. However, Mr. Moody had a little money
and he said that he would put it into the publication of these hymns in cheap form; and he
did. The hymns had a most remarkable and unexpected sale; they were then published in
book form and large profits accrued. The financial results were offered to Mr. Moody,
but he refused to touch them. “But,” it was urged on him, “the money belongs to you”;
but he would not touch it.
Mr. Fleming H. Revell was at the time treasurer of the Chicago Avenue Church,
commonly known as the Moody Tabernacle. Only the basement of this new church
building had been completed, funds having been exhausted. Hearing of the hymnbook
situation Mr. Revell suggested, in a letter to friends in London, that the money be given
for completion of this building, and it was. Afterwards, so much money came in that it
was given, by the committee into whose hands Mr. Moody put the matter, to various
In a certain city to which Mr. Moody went in the latter years of his life, and where I went
with him, it was publicly announced that Mr. Moody would accept no money whatever
for his services. Now, in point of fact, Mr. Moody was dependent, in a measure, upon
what was given him at various services; but when this announcement was made, Mr.
Moody said nothing, and left that city without a penny’s compensation for the hard work
he did there; and, I think, he paid his own hotel bill. And yet a minister in that very city
came out with an article in a paper, which I read, in which he told a fairy tale of the
financial demands that Mr. Moody made upon them, which story I knew personally to be
absolutely untrue. Millions of dollars passed into Mr. Moody hands, but they passed
through; they did not stick to his fingers.
This is the point at which many an evangelist makes shipwreck, and his great work comes
to an untimely end. The love of money on the part of some evangelists has done more to
discredit evangelistic work in our day, and to lay many an evangelist on the shelf, than
almost any other cause.
While I was away on my recent tour I was told by one of the most reliable ministers in
one of our eastern cities of a campaign conducted by one who has been greatly used in
the past. (Do not imagine, for a moment, that I am speaking of Billy Sunday, for I am not;
this same minister spoke in the highest terms of Mr. Sunday and of a campaign which he
conducted in a city where this minister was a pastor.) This evangelist of whom I now
speak came to a city for a united evangelistic campaign and was supported by fifty-three
churches. The minister who told me about the matter was himself chairman of the
The evangelist showed such a longing for money and so deliberately violated the
agreement he had made before coming to the city and so insisted upon money being
gathered for him in other ways than he had himself prescribed in the original contract,
that this minister threatened to resign from the Finance Committee. He was, however,
persuaded to remain to avoid a scandal. “As the total result of the three weeks’ campaign
there were only twenty-four clear decisions,” said my friend; “and after it was over the
ministers got together and by a vote with but one dissenting voice, they agreed to send a
letter to this evangelist telling him frankly that they were done with him and with his
methods of evangelism forever, and that they felt it their duty to warn other cities against
him and his methods and the results of his work.” Let us lay the lesson to our hearts and
take warning in time.
(6) His Consuming Passion for the Salvation of the Lost
The sixth reason why God used D. L. Moody was because of his consuming passion for
the salvation of the lost. Mr. Moody made the resolution, shortly after he himself was
saved, that he would never let twenty-four hours pass over his head without speaking to
at least one person about his soul. His was a very busy life, and sometimes he would
forget his resolution until the last hour, and sometimes he would get out of bed, dress, go
out and talk to someone about his soul in order that he might not let one day pass without
having definitely told at least one of his fellow-mortals about his need and the Savior
who could meet it.
One night Mr. Moody was going home from his place of business. It was very late, and it
suddenly occurred to him that he had not spoken to one single person that day about
accepting Christ. He said to himself: “Here’s a day lost. I have not spoken to anyone
today and I shall not see anybody at this late hour.” But as he walked up the street he saw
a man standing under a lamppost. The man was a perfect stranger to him, though it turned
out afterwards the man knew who Mr. Moody was. He stepped up to this stranger and
said: “Are you a Christian?” The man replied: “That is none of your business, whether I
am a Christian or not. If you were not a sort of a preacher I would knock you into the
gutter for your impertinence.” Mr. Moody said a few earnest words and passed on.
The next day that man called upon one of Mr. Moody’s prominent business friends and
said to him: “That man Moody of yours over on the North Side is doing more harm than
he is good. He has got zeal without knowledge. He stepped up to me last night, a perfect
stranger, and insulted me. He asked me if I were a Christian, and I told him it was none of
his business and if he were not a sort of a preacher I would knock him into the gutter for
his impertinence. He is doing more harm than he is good. He has got zeal without
knowledge.” Mr. Moody’s friend sent for him and said: “Moody, you are doing more
harm than you are good; you’ve got zeal without knowledge: you insulted a friend of
mine on the street last night. You went up to him, a perfect stranger, and asked him if he
were a Christian, and he tells me if you had not been a sort of a preacher he would have
knocked you into the gutter for your impertinence. You are doing more harm than you are
good; you have got zeal without knowledge.”
Mr. Moody went out of that man’s office somewhat crestfallen. He wondered if he were
not doing more harm than he was good, if he really had zeal without knowledge. (Let me
say, in passing, it is far better to have zeal without knowledge than it is to have
knowledge without zeal. Some men and women are as full of knowledge as an egg is of
meat; they are so deeply versed in Bible truth that they can sit in criticism on the
preachers and give the preachers pointers, but they have so little zeal that they do not lead
one soul to Christ in a whole year.)
Weeks passed by. One night Mr. Moody was in bed when he heard a tremendous
pounding at his front door. He jumped out of bed and rushed to the door. He thought the
house was on fire. He thought the man would break down the door. He opened the door
and there stood this man. He said: “Mr. Moody, I have not had a good night’s sleep since
that night you spoke to me under the lamppost, and I have come around at this unearthly
hour of the night for you to tell me what I have to do to be saved.” Mr. Moody took him
in and told him what to do to be saved. Then he accepted Christ, and when the Civil War
broke out, he went to the front and laid down his life fighting for his country.
Another night, Mr. Moody got home and had gone to bed before it occurred to him that
he had not spoken to a soul that day about accepting Christ. “Well,” he said to himself, “it
is no good getting up now; there will be nobody on the street at this hour of the night.”
But he got up, dressed and went to the front door. It was pouring rain. “Oh,” he said,
“there will be no one out in this pouring rain.” Just then he heard the patter of a man’s
feet as he came down the street, holding an umbrella over his head. Then Mr. Moody
darted out and rushed up to the man and said: “May I share the shelter of your umbrella?”
“Certainly,” the man replied. Then Mr. Moody said: “Have you any shelter in the time of
storm?” and preached Jesus to him. Oh, men and women, if we were as full of zeal for
the salvation of souls as that, how long would it be before the whole country would be
shaken by the power of a mighty, God-sent revival?
One day in Chicago — the day after the elder Carter Harrison was shot, when his body
was lying in state in the City Hall — Mr. Moody and I were riding up Randolph Street
together in a streetcar right alongside of the City Hall. The car could scarcely get through
because of the enormous crowds waiting to get in and view the body of Mayor Harrison.
As the car tried to push its way through the crowd, Mr. Moody turned to me and said:
“Torrey, what does this mean?” “Why,” I said, “Carter Harrison’s body lies there in the
City Hall and these crowds are waiting to see it.”
Then he said: “This will never do, to let these crowds get away from us without
preaching to them; we must talk to them. You go and hire Hooley’s Opera House (which
was just opposite the City Hall) for the whole day.” I did so. The meetings began at nine
o’clock in the morning, and we had one continuous service from that hour until six in the
evening, to reach those crowds.
Mr. Moody was a man on fire for God. Not only was he always “on the job” himself but
he was always getting others to work as well. He once invited me down to Northfield to
spend a month there with the schools, speaking first to one school and then crossing the
river to the other. I was obliged to use the ferry a great deal; it was before the present
bridge was built at that point.
One day he said to me: “Torrey, did you know that that ferryman that ferries you across
every day was unconverted?” He did not tell me to speak to him, but I knew what he
meant. When some days later it was told him that the ferryman was saved, he was
Once, when walking down a certain street in Chicago, Mr. Moody stepped up to a man, a
perfect stranger to him, and said: “Sir, are you a Christian?” “You mind your own
business,” was the reply. Mr. Moody replied: “This is my business.” The man said,
“Well, then, you must be Moody.” Out in Chicago they used to call him in those early
days “Crazy Moody,” because day and night he was speaking to everybody he got a
chance to speak to about being saved.
One time he was going to Milwaukee, and in the seat that he had chosen sat a traveling
man. Mr. Moody sat down beside him and immediately began to talk with him. “Where
are you going?” Mr. Moody asked. When told the name of the town he said: “We will
soon be there; we’ll have to get down to business at once. Are you saved?” The man said
that he was not, and Mr. Moody took out his Bible and there on the train showed him the
way of salvation. Then he said: “Now, you must take Christ.” The man did; he was
converted right there on the train.
Most of you have heard, I presume, the story President Wilson used to tell about D. L.
Moody. Ex-President Wilson said that he once went into a barbershop and took a chair
next to the one in which D. L. Moody was sitting, though he did not know that Mr.
Moody was there. He had not been in the chair very long before, as ex-President Wilson
phrased it, he “knew there was a personality in the other chair,” and he began to listen to
the conversation going on; he heard Mr. Moody tell the barber about the Way of Life, and
President Wilson said, “I have never forgotten that scene to this day.” When Mr. Moody
was gone, he asked the barber who he was; when he was told that it was D. L. Moody,
President Wilson said: “It made an impression upon me I have not yet forgotten.”
On one occasion in Chicago Mr. Moody saw a little girl standing on the street with a pail
in her hand. He went up to her and invited her to his Sunday school, telling her what a
pleasant place it was. She promised to go the following Sunday, but she did not do so.
Mr. Moody watched for her for weeks, and then one day he saw her on the street again, at
some distance from him. He started toward her, but she saw him too and started to run
away. Mr. Moody followed her. Down she went one street, Mr. Moody after her; up she
went another street, Mr. Moody after her, through an alley, Mr. Moody still following;
out on another street, Mr. Moody after her; then she dashed into a saloon and Mr. Moody
dashed after her. She ran out the back door and up a flight of stairs, Mr. Moody still
following; she dashed into a room, Mr. Moody following; she threw herself under the bed
and Mr. Moody reached under the bed and pulled her out by the foot, and led her to
He found that her mother was a widow who had once seen better circumstances, but had
gone down until now she was living over this saloon. She had several children. Mr.
Moody led the mother and all the family to Christ. Several of the children were
prominent members of the Moody Church until they moved away, and afterwards
became prominent in churches elsewhere. This particular child, whom he pulled from
underneath the bed, was, when I was the pastor of the Moody Church, the wife of one of
the most prominent officers in the church.
Only two or three years ago, as I came out of a ticket office in Memphis, Tennessee, a
fine-looking young man followed me. He said: “Are you not Dr. Torrey?” I said, “Yes.”
He said: “I am so and so.” He was the son of this woman. He was then a traveling man,
and an officer in the church where he lived. When Mr. Moody pulled that little child out
from under the bed by the foot he was pulling a whole family into the Kingdom of God,
and eternity alone will reveal how many succeeding generations he was pulling into the
Kingdom of God.
D. L. Moody’s consuming passion for souls was not for the souls of those who would be
helpful to him in building up his work here or elsewhere; his love for souls knew no class
limitations. He was no respecter of persons; it might be an earl or a duke or it might be an
ignorant colored boy on the street; it was all the same to him; there was a soul to save and
he did what lay in his power to save that soul.
A friend once told me that the first time he ever heard of Mr. Moody was when Mr.
Reynolds of Peoria told him that he once found Mr. Moody sitting in one of the squatters’
shanties that used to be in that part of the city toward the lake, which was then called,
“The Sands,” with a colored boy on his knee, a tallow candle in one hand and a Bible in
the other, and Mr. Moody was spelling out the words (for at that time the boy could not
read very well) of certain verses of Scripture, in an attempt to lead that ignorant colored
boy to Christ.
Oh, young men and women and all Christian workers, if you and I were on fire for souls
like that, how long would it be before we had a revival? Suppose that tonight the fire of
God falls and fills our hearts, a burning fire that will send us out all over the country, and
across the water to China, Japan, India and Africa, to tell lost souls the way of salvation!
(7) Definitely Endued with Power from on High
The seventh thing that was the secret of why God used D. L. Moody was that he had a
very definite enduement with power from on High, a very clear and definite baptism with
the Holy Ghost. Moody knew he had “the baptism with the Holy Ghost”; he had no doubt
about it. In his early days he was a great hustler; he had a tremendous desire to do
something, but he had no real power. He worked very largely in the energy of the flesh.
But there were two humble Free Methodist women who used to come over to his
meetings in the Y.M.C.A. One was “Auntie Cook” and the other, Mrs. Snow. (I think her
name was not Snow at that time.) These two women would come to Mr. Moody at the
close of his meetings and say: “We are praying for you.” Finally, Mr. Moody became
somewhat nettled and said to them one night: “Why are you praying for me? Why don’t
you pray for the unsaved?” They replied: “We are praying that you may get the power.”
Mr. Moody did not know what that meant, but he got to thinking about it, and then went
to these women and said: “I wish you would tell me what you mean”; and they told him
about the definite baptism with the Holy Ghost. Then he asked that he might pray with
them and not they merely pray for him.
Auntie Cook once told me of the intense fervor with which Mr. Moody prayed on that
occasion. She told me in words that I scarcely dare repeat, though I have never forgotten
them. And he not only prayed with them, but he also prayed alone.
Not long after, one day on his way to England, he was walking up Wall Street in New
York; (Mr. Moody very seldom told this and I almost hesitate to tell it) and in the midst
of the bustle and hurry of that city his prayer was answered; the power of God fell upon
him as he walked up the street and he had to hurry off to the house of a friend and ask
that he might have a room by himself, and in that room he stayed alone for hours; and the
Holy Ghost came upon him, filling his soul with such joy that at last he had to ask God to
withhold His hand, lest he die on the spot from very joy. He went out from that place
with the power of the Holy Ghost upon him, and when he got to London (partly through
the prayers of a bedridden saint in Mr. Lessey’s church), the power of God wrought
through him mightily in North London, and hundreds were added to the churches; and
that was what led to his being invited over to the wonderful campaign that followed in
Time and again Mr. Moody would come to me and say: “Torrey, I want you to preach on
the baptism with the Holy Ghost.” I do not know how many times he asked me to speak
on that subject. Once, when I had been invited to preach in the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian
Church, New York (invited at Mr. Moody’s suggestion; had it not been for his suggestion
the invitation would never have been extended to me), just before I started for New York,
Mr. Moody drove up to my house and said: “Torrey, they want you to preach at the Fifth
Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York. It is a great big church, cost a million dollars
to build it.” Then he continued: “Torrey, I just want to ask one thing of you. I want to tell
you what to preach about. You will preach that sermon of yours on ‘Ten Reasons Why I
Believe the Bible to Be the Word of God’ and your sermon on ‘The Baptism With the
Time and again, when a call came to me to go off to some church, he would come up to
me and say: “Now, Torrey, be sure and preach on the baptism with the Holy Ghost.” I do
not know how many times he said that to me. Once I asked him: “Mr. Moody, don’t you
think I have any sermons but those two: ‘Ten Reasons Why I Believe the Bible to Be the
Word of God’ and ‘The Baptism With the Holy Ghost’?” “Never mind that,” he replied,
“you give them those two sermons.”
Once he had some teachers at Northfield — fine men, all of them, but they did not
believe in a definite baptism with the Holy Ghost for the individual. They believed that
every child of God was baptized with the Holy Ghost, and they did not believe in any
special baptism with the Holy Ghost for the individual. Mr. Moody came to me and said:
“Torrey, will you come up to my house after the meeting tonight and I will get those men
to come, and I want you to talk this thing out with them.”
Of course, I very readily consented, and Mr. Moody and I talked for a long time, but they
did not altogether see eye to eye with us. And when they went, Mr. Moody signaled me
to remain for a few moments. Mr. Moody sat there with his chin on his breast, as he so
often sat when he was in deep thought; then he looked up and said: “Oh, why will they
split hairs? Why don’t they see that this is just the one thing that they themselves need?
They are good teachers, they are wonderful teachers, and I am so glad to have them here;
but why will they not see that the baptism with the Holy Ghost is just the one touch that
they themselves need?”
I shall never forget the eighth of July, 1894, to my dying day. It was the closing day of
the Northfield Students’ Conference — the gathering of the students from the eastern
colleges. Mr. Moody had asked me to preach on Saturday night and Sunday morning on
the baptism with the Holy Ghost. On Saturday night I had spoken about, “The Baptism
With the Holy Ghost: What It Is; What It Does; the Need of It and the Possibility of It.”
On Sunday morning I spoke on “The Baptism With the Holy Spirit: How to Get It.” It
was just exactly twelve o’clock when I finished my morning sermon, and I took out my
watch and said: “Mr. Moody has invited us all to go up to the mountain at three o’clock
this afternoon to pray for the power of the Holy Spirit. It is three hours to three o’clock.
Some of you cannot wait three hours. You do not need to wait. Go to your rooms; go out
into the woods; go to your tent; go anywhere where you can get alone with God and have
this matter out with Him.”
At three o’clock we all gathered in front of Mr. Moody’s mother’s house (she was then
still living), and then began to pass down the lane, through the gate, up on the
mountainside. There were four hundred and fifty-six of us in all; I know the number
because Paul Moody counted us as we passed through the gate.
After a while Mr. Moody said: “I don’t think we need to go any further; let us sit down
here.” We sat down on stumps and logs and on the ground. Mr. Moody said: “Have any
of you students anything to say?” I think about seventy-five of them arose, one after the
other, and said: “Mr. Moody, I could not wait till three o’clock; I have been alone with
God since the morning service, and I believe I have a right to say that I have been
baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
When these testimonies were over, Mr. Moody said: “Young men, I can’t see any reason
why we shouldn’t kneel down here right now and ask God that the Holy Ghost may fall
upon us just as definitely as He fell upon the apostles on the Day of Pentecost. Let us
pray.” And we did pray, there on the mountainside. As we had gone up the mountainside
heavy clouds had been gathering, and just as we began to pray those clouds broke and the
raindrops began to fall through the overhanging pines. But there was another cloud that
had been gathering over Northfield for ten days, a cloud big with the mercy and grace
and power of God; and as we began to pray our prayers seemed to pierce that cloud and
the Holy Ghost fell upon us. Men and women, that is what we all need the Baptism with
the Holy Ghost.
Sermon by R.A. Torrey
Sword of the Lord Publishers, P.O. Box 1099, Murfreesboro, TN 37133, USA