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Dwight L. Moody

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Dwight L. Moody

Dwight Lyman Moody
Preacher, evangelist and publisher
Born (1837-02-05)February 5, 1837
Northfield, Massachusetts, USA
Died December 22, 1899(1899-12-22) (aged 62)
Northfield, Massachusetts, USA

Dwight Lyman Moody (February 5, 1837 – December 22, 1899), also known as D.L. Moody, was an American evangelist and publisher, who founded the Moody Church, Northfield School and Mount Hermon School in Massachusetts (now Northfield Mount Hermon School), the Moody Bible Institute, and Moody Publishers.

Early life

Dwight Moody was born in Northfield, Massachusetts, to a large family. His father, Edwin J. Moody (1800–1841), a small farmer and stonemason, died at the age of 41, when Dwight was only four years old; his mother was Betsey Moody (née Holton; 1805–1896). They had five sons and a daughter before Dwight's birth, with twins, a boy and a girl, born one month after Edwin's death. His mother struggled to support the family, but even with her best effort, some of her children had to be sent off to work for their room and board. Dwight too was sent off, where he received cornmeal, porridge, and milk three times a day.[1] He complained to his mother, but when she found out that he got all that he wanted to eat, she sent him back. Even during that time she continued to send them to church. Together with his eight siblings he was raised in the Unitarian church. His oldest brother ran away and was not heard from by the family until many years later.

Plaque commemorating the spot on Court Street in Boston where Dwight Moody was converted in 1855

When Moody turned 17, he moved to Boston to work (after many job rejections) in an uncle's shoe store. One of the uncle's requirements was that Moody attend the Congregational Church of Mount Vernon where Dr. Edward Norris Kirk served as the pastor. In April 1855 Moody was then converted to evangelical Christianity when his Sunday school teacher, Edward Kimball, talked to him about how much God loved him. His conversion sparked the start of his career as an evangelist. However, his first application for church membership, in May 1855, was rejected. He was not received as a church member until May 4, 1856. As his teacher, Edward Kimball, stated:

"I can truly say, and in saying it I magnify the infinite grace of God as bestowed upon him, that I have seen few persons whose minds were spiritually darker than was his when he came into my Sunday School class; and I think that the committee of the Mount Vernon Church seldom met an applicant for membership more unlikely ever to become a Christian of clear and decided views of Gospel truth, still less to fill any extended sphere of public usefulness."[2]

The Civil War

"The first meeting I ever saw him at was in a little old shanty that had been abandoned by a saloon-keeper. Mr. Moody had got the place to hold the meetings in at night. I went there a little late; and the first thing I saw was a man standing up with a few tallow candles around him, holding a negro boy, and trying to read to him the story of the Prodigal Son and a great many words he could not read out, and had to skip. I thought, 'If the Lord can ever use such an instrument as that for His honor and glory, it will astonish me. As a result of his tireless labor, within a year the average attendance at his school was 650, while 60 volunteers from various churches served as teachers. It became so well known that the just-elected President Lincoln visited and spoke at a Sunday School meeting on November 25, 1860."

D. L. Moody "could not conscientiously enlist" in the Union Army during the Civil War, later describing himself as "a Quaker" in this respect.[3] After the Civil War started, he became involved with the United States Christian Commission of the YMCA, and paid nine visits to the battlefront, being present among the Union soldiers after the Battle of Shiloh (a.k.a. Pittsburg Landing) and the Battle of Stones River; he also entered Richmond, Virginia, with the troops of General Grant. On August 28, 1862, he married Emma C. Revell, with whom he had a daughter, Emma Reynolds Moody, and two sons, William Revell Moody and Paul Dwight Moody.

Chicago and the post-Civil War years

The growing Sunday School congregation needed a permanent home, so Moody started a church in Chicago, the Illinois Street Church.

In June 1871 at an International Sunday School Convention in Indianapolis, Dwight Moody met Ira D. Sankey, up to then a single-gospel-singer, with whom he soon began to cooperate and collaborate. Four months later in October 1871 the Great Chicago Fire destroyed Dwight's church building, as well as his family dwelling and the homes of most of his churchmembers. Many had to flee the flames, saving only their lives, and ending up completely destitute. Moody, reporting on the disaster, said about his own situation that: "...he saved nothing but his reputation and his Bible." Moody's chapel was rebuilt within three months as the Chicago Avenue Church.

In the years after the fire, Moody's wealthy Chicago supporter Northfield Mount Hermon School. The Franklin County area has had a rich connection to evangelical Christianity including Jonathan Edwards preaching in Northampton and C.I. Scofield's preaching in Northfield. A protégé of Moody founded Moores Corner Church in Leverett Massachusetts which remains Evangelical to this day.


During a trip to England in the spring of 1872, he became well known as an evangelist. Literary works published by the Moody Bible Institute have claimed that he was the greatest evangelist of the 19th century.[4] He preached almost a hundred times and came into communion with the Plymouth Brethren. On several occasions he filled stadia of a capacity of 2,000 to 4,000. In the Botanic Gardens Palace a meeting had an audience between 15,000 and 30,000.

That turnout continued throughout 1874 and 1875, with crowds of thousands at all of his meetings. During his visit to Scotland he was helped and encouraged by Andrew A. Bonar. The famous London Baptist preacher, Charles Spurgeon, invited him to speak, and he promoted him as well. When he returned to the US, crowds of 12,000 to 20,000 were as common as they had been in England. President Grant and some of his cabinet officials attended a meeting on January 19, 1876. His evangelistic meetings took place from Boston to New York, throughout New England, and as far as San Francisco, along with other West Coast towns from Vancouver to San Diego.

Moody aided in the work of cross-cultural evangelism by promoting "The Wordless Book," a teaching tool that had been invented by Charles Spurgeon in 1866. In 1875 he added a fourth color to the design of the three-color evangelistic device: gold—to "represent heaven." This "book" has been and is still used to teach uncounted thousands of illiterate people, young and old, around the globe about the gospel message.[5]

Missionary preaching in China using Moody's version of The Wordless Book

Dwight L. Moody visited Britain with Ira D. Sankey, with Moody preaching and Sankey singing. Together they published books of Christian hymns. In 1883 they visited Edinburgh and raised £10,000 for the building of a new home for the Carrubbers Close Mission. Moody later preached at the laying of the foundation stone for what is one of the few buildings on the Royal Mile which continues to be used for its original purpose and is now called the Carrubbers Christian Centre.

Moody greatly influenced the cause of cross-cultural Christian missions after he met Hudson Taylor, a pioneer missionary to China. He actively supported the China Inland Mission and encouraged many of his congregation to volunteer for service overseas.

International acclaim

His influence was felt among Swedes despite that he was of English heritage, that he never visited Sweden or any other Scandinavian country, and that he never spoke a word of Swedish. Nonetheless he became a hero revivalist among Swedish Mission Friends in Sweden and America.[6]

News of Moody’s large revival campaigns in Great Britain from 1873 through 1875 traveled quickly to Sweden, making "Mr. Moody" a household name in homes of many Mission Friends. Moody’s sermons published in Sweden were distributed in books, newspapers, and colporteur tracts, and they led to the spread of Sweden’s "Moody fever" from 1875 through 1880.

He preached his last sermon on November 16, 1899, in Kansas City, Missouri. Becoming ill, he returned home by train to Northfield. During the preceding several months, friends had observed he had added some 30 pounds (14 kg) to his already ample frame. Although his illness was never diagnosed, it has been speculated that he suffered from congestive heart failure. He died on December 22, 1899, surrounded by his family. Already installed as the leader of his Chicago Bible Institute, R. A. Torrey succeeded Moody as its president. Ten years after Moody's death the Chicago Avenue Church was renamed the Moody Church in his honor, and the Chicago Bible Institute was likewise renamed the Moody Bible Institute.


  • Heaven Diggory Press ISBN 978-1-84685-812-3
  • Prevailing Prayer—What Hinders it? Diggory Press ISBN 978-1-84685-803-1
  • Secret Power Diggory Press ISBN 978-1-84685-802-4
  • The Ten Commandments[7]

See also


  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ Moody (1900), 21
  3. ^ Donald W. Dayton, Discovering an Evangelical Heritage (New York: Harper & Row, 1976), 134.
  4. ^
  5. ^ Austin (2007), 1-10
  6. ^ Gustafson (2008)
  7. ^ The Ten Commandments


  • "Dwight Moody: evangelist with a common touch" Christianity Today, 8 August 2008.
  • Christian Biography Resources
  • Austin, Alvyn. China’s Millions: The China Inland Mission and Late Qing Society. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company (March 5, 2007) ISBN 978-0-8028-2975-7
  • Beadenkopf, T. M.; Stricklen, W.R. Moody in Baltimore, "Students of Johns Hopkins", Baltimore, 1879, 2nd ed.
  • Dorsett, L. W. A Passion for Souls: The Life of D. L. Moody. 1997
  • Findlay, J. F. Jr. Dwight L. Moody: American Evangelist 1837–1899. 1969
  • Gundry, S. N. Love them in: The Proclamation Theology of D. L. Moody. 1976
  • Evensen, B. J. God's Man for Gilded Age: D. L. Moody and the Rise of Mass Evangelism. 2003
  • Gustafson, D. M. D. L. Moody and Swedes: Shaping Evangelical Identity among Swedish Missions Friends 1867–1899. (Linköping Studies in Arts and Sciences 419. / Linköping Studies in Identity and Pluralism 7.) 2008. Ph.D. Dissertation
  • Moody, Paul Dwight. The Shorter Life of D. L. Moody. 1900
  • Schlachter, Franz Eugen. D. L. Moody, ein Lebensbild (1894)
  • Simons, M. Laird. Holding the Fort: comprising sermons and addresses at the Great Revival meetings conducted by Moody and Sankey, with the lives and labors of Dwight L. Moody, Ira D. Sankey, and P. P. Bliss, Norwich, Connecticut: Henry Bill Publishing Co., 1877.

External links

  • Recording of Moody reading the Beatitudes
  • Sample sermons by D. L. Moody
  • "Shall I enter the Army?" Moody said, "No."
  • Sermons by D. L. Moody
  • Works by Dwight L. Moody at Project Gutenberg
  • Works by or about Dwight L. Moody at Internet Archive
    • Glad Tidings, sermons by D. L. Moody
    • The Gospel Awakening, sermons by D. L. Moody
  • books by D. L. Moody
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