First Modern American Revivalist
Dwight Lyman Moody was born in 1837 to a Unitarian mother, who 4 years later, was a widow to the husband who had drank himself to death. At 17 he left the hard work on the farm that constantly interrupted his education, moving to Boston, Massachusetts to work at Uncle Holton's shoe store. His Sunday School teacher, Edward Kimball, in "Beantown" was extremely instrumental in leading the young Moody to Christ a year later.
In 1856 he took his physical stature and business acumen to Chicago, Illinois. If he had not gotten so involved in Christian work with the rough children on the streets, and the YMCA he would surely have been a financial success. His letters to his family leave us a record of his development. "Crazy Moody"'s natural zealous preaching skills learned there became more honed in the capacity of a Civil War Chaplain, and they would thereafter be refined with his 1862 marriage to a faith-filled descended Englishwoman.
After a trip to England, Moody established a partnership with singer Ira D. Sankey reaching a peak of revival in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1873. He developed city-wide campaign techniques that moved from previous spontaneous camp meetings to extensive cooperation with various denominations of local churches to allow meaningful followups to conversions. He never neglected the social needs of the communities, especially concerning the youth. His impeccable reputation was enhanced by his habit of not participating in arguing and answering critics. By the time he was finished with his British Isles tour, he reached fame that he brought to New York City, especially Barnum's Hippodrome (same site as Madison Square Garden of Billy Graham notoriety.)
His second four year English campaign in 1882 led to the recruitment of the well-to-do "Cambridge Seven" sailing to China in 1885. A year later he founded the Moody Bible Institute, with R. A. Torrey the first president, a college, by way of its correspondence course, reaches millions worldwide, and from a man who never had a formal higher education or ever traveled beyond the United States except for Great Britain. A man, even knowing of his heart trouble, died doing what he did best: during his last campaign in Kansas City, Missouri in 1899. His last words:
"Earth recedes; Heaven opens before me. No, this is not a dream, Will." (To the attendant by his side.) "It is beautiful. It is like a trance. If it is death, it is sweet. There is no valley there. God is calling me and I must go."
(To his gathered family he continued:), "I have always been an ambitious man, ambitious to leave no wealth or possessions, but to leave lots of work for you to do. This is my triumph; this is my Coronation Day I have been looking for it for years. Dwight! Irene! I see the children's faces! Mamma, (His wife) you have been good wife to me!"
(Reawakened a bit later with nitroglycerine he continued:) "What does all this mean? What are you all doing here? This is a strange thing. I have been to the very portals of heaven, and here I am back again. It is very strange. I'm not going to throw my life away. I'll stay as long a I can, but if my time is come, I'm ready. I'm not at all sure but that God may perform a miracle and raise me up. I'm going to get up. If God wants to heal me by a miracle that way, all right; and if not, I can meet death in my chair as well as here."
(He told the doctors with their warm cloth treatments:) "Here, take those away. If God is going to perform a miracle we don't want them, and the first thing I suppose we should do would be to discharge the doctor."
(After getting up to a chair and returning to his bed.) "This is hard on you, mother, and I'm sorry to distress you this way. It is hard to be kept in such anxiety." (The last sentence was concerning another nitro hypo:) "Doctor, I don't know about this. Do you think it best? It is only keeping the family in anxiety."
In the words of his biographer, and oldest son, W. R. Moody, "...he awoke in the presence of Him whom he loved and served so long and devotedly. It was not like death, for he fell on sleep quietly and peacefully."
Great leaders of the Christian Church, ed. John Woodbridge, Chicago: Moody Press, 1988.
D.L. Moody, W.R. Moody, Macmillan Company: New York, 1930.