LIFE IN BOSTON.
Young Moody at the age of seventeen left Northfield with his mother's permission to seek employment. He first went to Clinton, where he had a brother who was a clerk in a store, but finding nothing there to suit him, he pushed on to Boston. His uncle, Samuel Holton, a successful merchant of Boston, had visited the old home a little while before, and Dwight had asked him for a place in his boot and shoe store. The uncle, knowing what a wild young colt he was, had refused, fearing to take him to a great city, where the chances were that he would go straight to ruin. But the young man was determined to show his uncle that he could find, or make a place for himself without help from any one. Accordingly, much to that excellent gentleman's surprise, his nephew one day made his appearance in his store, not to ask for a place but just as a visitor.
His uncle, Lemuel, a younger brother of his mother, lived in Boston, and at his house young Moody was made welcome. He at once began to look for a situation, but did not succeed very well. The odor and the air of the farm were upon him; the touch of the mountain breeze was still in his cheeks, and these distinguished him from the dwellers in
the city. His clothes were not of the fashionable cut of the day. In some places they were shiny; mothers, seedy, and his trousers bagged at the knee. At this time he was so unfortunate as to inherit a big boil on his neck, which forced his head to rest on one side, and gave him a comical, if not a grotesque appearance, and of course this did not help his prospects for obtaining a situation.
At the end of a week he was much disgusted, but not discouraged; he began to think that nobody in Boston appreciated him, and he did have a very fair idea of his own worth. He came to the conclusion that he must move on, and he picked upon New York as the place to which he thought it would be well to go. All his money was gone, and he knew that he must make the journey on foot, if he went at all, as he had nothing which he could sell to raise more funds. His uncle Lemuel asked him if he had called upon his uncle Samuel for aid to a situation.
"No," said Dwight, "he knows that I am looking for a place, and he may help me or not just as he pleases.''
His pride, however, was beginning to bend just a little, but it was by no means ready to break. He was adrift in a world which seemed to care for him no more than the ocean waves care for a floating piece of cork wood. His uncle Lemuel thought it might be well to give the young man some advice, so he gave him a good fatherly talk. He told him that his self-will was greatly in his way, and that modesty was sometimes as needful as courage, and suggested that his uncle Samuel would no doubt be glad to do something for him, if he should show
The place where Mr. Moody was born and where his mother lived for three-quarters of a century, also the new hotel
and training school.
himself a little more willing to be governed by people who were older and wiser than himself.
Acting upon this advice, he was kindly received by his uncle Samuel, who consented to give him a place as a salesman in his store upon the following conditions:
That he was to board at some place to be selected by his uncle.
That he was not to be out in the streets after night, or go to places of amusement, which his uncle did not approve.
That he was regularly to attend the Mount Vernon (Congregational) church and Sunday-school.
His uncle was a successful business man. He, too, had come to Boston in his youth, and knew of the snares and temptations to which a young man was subjected, and he was satisfied that if young Dwight would adhere strictly to the code he had laid down for him, that he would succeed. He had for many years been a member of the Mount Vernon church, and he knew that the young man would be sure to find there good companions, a thing which he considered of vital importance. To the three conditions above enumerated, a general one was added, which was that Dwight was to be governed by the judgment of his uncle rather than his own; or, in other words, that he was to give due obedience to his superiors.
Young Moody was in such a state of mind, and was so thankful for the aid which his uncle had offered him, that he readily agreed to all of the conditions, and to his credit, it may be said that he kept them faithfully. A home was found for him in a Christian family, who lived in humble style, but the moral atmosphere was such that it more than compensated for any lack of bodily comforts. A feeling natural to one in his condition, sprung up in the breast of young Moody, and that was that the people with whom he came in contact in his church and business life felt that they were just a little bit better than he. He saw that he had neglected his opportunities in the country school, and that his meagre education had not fitted him to shine in cultivated society. For a time he was unhappy, but he steadily held to his purpose of conquering a place for himself in the world, and he felt sure of ultimate success.
He was a sharp, shrewd boy, a keen observer of man and things, even at that early age, and was possessed after a short time, with a judgment rare in a boy who had been raised under such environments. What he lacked in knowledge he made up in shrewd guessing, and within three months after he entered the store of his uncle, he was the best salesman in the house. His idea of business was a struggle with mankind, out of which the hardest heads and the sharpest wits were sure to come with the largest influence and the longer purse. His uncles were quiet men and conservative. Dwight was opposed to silence and conservatism. Their ideas were not his ideas, although their aim may have been the same. They were slow and methodical; he was brusque, impulsive and aggressive. He had a high sense of what he thought was right, and was quick to resent what he deemed any attack upon his honor. These little tempests of passion soon passed away, however. It may be imagined that this peculiar characteristic of the young man sometimes created consternation in the conservative old business house, and it required splendid diplomatic ability on the part of the superiors to keep peace among the inferiors.
The church which his uncle required him to attend was Congregational in its character, and was one of the most orthodox and excellent in all that section of the country. Its pastor, Dr. Kirk, was a man of magnificent physique, of great knowledge, of captivating manners, and great oratorical powers. He was such a man as would naturally draw to him a character such as that of young Moody. No ordinary preacher would have been able to have done this. Young Dwight saw in this minister a man who was a success.
Mr. Edward Kimball was the teacher of the Bible class, in which he was placed in the Sunday-school. His first visits to the class were by reason of his agreement with his uncle, but it was with evident weariness and impatience that he listened to the lessons and explanations. The teacher stated in speaking of the affair in after years that he did not seem to be able to get hold of the young man, and that he even felt that he was failing to interest him, but that one Sunday, the lesson happened to be about Moses, and that he noticed that the young boy listened with considerable attention, and was at last so interested as to actually ask a question, the first remark he had made. The teacher received the question with much favor, and enlarged upon it much to the youth's satisfaction. The boy soon began to take an interest in his teacher, but his dislike for the Sunday-school and the church seemed to be growing. It seemed to him that the people were so rich, so proud and so pious, that they lived in a different world from his. The youth of his age wore better clothes, and spent a great deal of money, and he felt that he could not imitate them. Therefore, he considered himself a victim of misfortune, and had a habit of revenging himself, as many people do under like circumstances, by denouncing his more fortunate fellow creatures for their pride. It was not long, hower er, before the spirit of God began to make itself manifest in his soul. His heart gradually began to soften. He thought often of the lessons taught him by his mother, and he began again to pray the Lord to help him to be good. One day his Sunday-school teacher came to him in his place of business, and putting his hand kindly upon his shoulder, inquired if he would not give his heart to Christ. The question awakened him, and he began to seek the Savior in earnest, and in a little while he began to feel that he had been converted. Years afterward, he used to say: "I can feel the touch of that man's hand on my shoulder yet." He carried into his religion the same enthusiasm that he used in his business, and he soon began to speak in the meetings of the church, telling what God had done for his soul, and sometimes adding a piece of exhortion, which was not always nattering to the elegant believers around him, and which was many times received with disfavor.
It is related that one good lady, a member of the congregation, one of those prim, stately old New England damsels, who doubtless traced her ancestry back to the Mayflower pilgrims, called upon his uncle Samuel, and requested that he advise the young man to remain silent until he should become more able to edify the meetings. His uncle replied that he was glad his nephew had the courage to profess his faith in such presence, and declined to put anything in his way.
In the course of time, he made application to be received into the Mount Vernon church, and went before the deacons to be examined as to his faith and doctrine. His early training in religious matters had been in a general way. He had not been taught the catechism of any creed. His mother was a believer in the Bible, and explained it according to her light without reference to any particular sect. Thus it was that when he came to pass the strict doctrinal examination, he found himself illy qualified. There was nothing lacking in his faith, but his doctrine was lamentably weak. Orthodox theology had made little impression upon him. He was completely at sea on the questions propounded to him by the deacons, but he was familiar with his duty to Christ, to the church and the world, and he was willing and anxious to do it. The deacons did not take kindly to this kind of theology. In those days, doctrine was one of the great things necessary to a man's salvation, and he who had not doctrinal points at the end of his tongue, was not, in their judgment, considered a fit candidate for full church membership. They wanted the young man to succeed, they wanted him to become a member of their church, but they could not see their way clear to accepting him at that time. They, therefore, proposed to put him on probation. This the young man accepted, and continued his heavenward course, meanwhile imbibing a number of the doctrinal points. After a time, he made a second application, and at the May communion, in the year 1855, he was received into the church. Some years afterward, Dr. Kirk, the pastor, was in Chicago, and heard the young man preach, stayed at his house, preached in his pulpit, and conversed with the people about him, and when he returned East, he called upon Moody's uncle Samuel, and said to him:
"We ought to be ashamed of ourselves. There is that young Moody, whom we thought did not know enough to be in our church and Sunday-school, exercising a greater influence for Christ than any other man in the great Northwest"
Mr. Moody never forgot the kind help of his teacher, Mr. Kimball. He claimed it as one of the sweetest experiences of his life when he had become a successful evangelist. Many years after, when Mr. Moody was holding some meetings in Boston, a young man came to him after the service and introduced himself as the son of Mr. Kimball. Mr. Moody was, of course, delighted to see him, and at once inquired if he was a Christian. The young man answered that he was not.
"How old are you?" asked Mr. Moody.
"Seventeen," replied the young man.
"Just my age," said Mr. Moody, "when your father led me to the Savior, and that was just seventeen years ago this very day. Now, I want to pay him by leading his son to Christ."
The young man was deeply impressed. They went into a pew together. Mr. Moody prayed with him, and received his promise to give his heart to Christ. Soon afterward, he received a letter from
his old teacher, in which he said that his son had found peace in believing.
Mr Moody carried his business push into the church, and Dr. Kirk was many times obliged to put an extinguisher on the young man, who always wanted to talk. He reminded one of a steam-engine in his enthusiasm. His conversion seemed to force him to want to do something more than was being done in the church. He could not understand that a man could be a conservative Christian. He thought that he must always be fighting sin in whatever guise he found it. He believed that the old bones needed rattling up. He wanted to set the church members to working, but they did not take kindly to innovations. He began to think that a change of scene was what he needed. He had heard and read much of the West, and he believed that there he would have better opportunities for fulfilling his business aspirations, and a freer range for his religious convictions. So, in 1856, in the month of September, he left Boston, and a few days later arrived in Chicago.