HIS Y. M. C. A. WORK.
Mr. Moody was one of the first members of the Y. M. C. A. of Chicago, in 1858, when that organization opened its room at 205 Randolph street. He continued his work, and, in 1864, was made a member of a special committee for the procuring of ground and the erection of a permanent building. As a result of this work, the first building of the Association was dedicated at 148 Madison street, in 1867. He was president of the Association from 1865 to 1869. One of the principal reasons ascribed for the success of the Y. M. C. A. was the daily prayer-meetings and the religious efforts growing out of it. Mr. Moody was the leading spirit, and gathered round him a band of men who were winners of souls. The very atmosphere of the rooms of the Association was one of prayer and praise. Although the appointments were very modest and plain, the spirit of those who met in those daily services was one of remarkable consecration.
The good effected by the Y. M. C. A. in connection with the United States Christian commission during the civil war was altogether incalculable, many of whom were among the first who responded to the call for 75,000 men, and from that time to the capture of Richmond the labor of societies were unremitting to aid and comfort soldiers in camp and on the battle-field.
A large chapel was erected in Chicago where there was preaching and prayer-meetings every day. The hospitals were visited by regular agents who supplied all the needs of the soldiers during sickness and convalescence. Dwight L. Moody was the first regular army agent of the societies.
Camp Douglas, in Chicago, was selected for a military prison by the United States authorities, and many men who had fought in the Confederate army were brought there for safety. Mr. Moody and his co-workers saw in this camp, which was tenanted alike by Union and Confederate forces, a need of spiritual instruction. He, therefore, put forth his efforts to do all the good he could in the camp, and held meetings there as often as his affairs and the exigencies of the camp would permit.
From Camp Douglas he went to other camps of the army, and for years his familiar face and pleasant voice were seen and heard in many places where blood ran in streams.
At the close of the war, there was organized what was known as the American Christian Commission, which held conventions in many cities of the country, among the most notable of which were the ones held in Boston, Minneapolis, and Des Moines, Iowa, in 1866; Leavenworth, Kansas; Minneapolis, Pittsburg, and Grinnell, Iowa, in 1867; St. Louis, Philadelphia, Peoria, Detroit, Terre Haute, Columbus, and terminating with the great national convention held in Marble Church, New York, in 1868. At each of these conventions Mr. Moody presided, and was the moving spirit of the meetings. His work in the Christian Commission brought him more than local fame, but his work in these conventions made him known to people all over the United States, and the culmination was in the New York meeting when he answered the questions and expounded his views on the Bible against Dr. John Hall and Rev. Henry Ward Beecher. In the judgment of the contemporary critics, he came out with the fullest of honors.
At the close of the work of the Commission, he came back to Chicago, occasionally making visits here, there and elsewhere, for the purpose of holding revivals. He began to be much sought after and he thought that perhaps it would be best to give up his local work in Chicago and vicinity, and traverse more ground.
In a history of the First Congregational Church of Chicago for the quarter-century ending in 1876, appeared the following: "In closing the records of this portion of our history a brief word ought to be spoken respecting the peculiarly close relation sustained by this church to the evangelistic work of our honored brother, Dwight L. Moody, Major T. W. Whittle, and P. P. Bliss. It is a matter of pardonable pride that when Brother Moody was canvassing the question of duty as to his future work, when some ridiculed his illiterateness, were offended at his plain, blunt way of putting the gospel truth; when some pulpits were shut against him, and some Christian people were disposed to think him a clown, not to say a fool, this church had, as a whole, only sympathy, this pulpit only a welcome and a Godspeed. And I know that this hearty fellowship and regard were most grateful and inspiriting to him.
"The first Bible-reading he gave in this city, or gave anywhere, as covering the new method of evangelistic labor which was shaping itself before his mind, he gave in the lecture-room of this church, and the work of that series of twelve readings greatly encouraged this dear brother to continue in his chosen work. Church and pastor were one in this. You never found fault with me for welcoming him so heartily to this pulpit. You never sneered at his broken, unpolished utterances, his faulty grammar. You agreed with me, that taught in the schools or taught only in the closet, ordained by the laying on of men's hands, or ordained only by the baptism of the Holy Ghost, whosoever he might be, that evinces the seal of God's approval on his endeavor to lead men to Christ, he should have our heartiest fellowship, our sincerest prayers.
"Brother Whittle is our rightful ambassador, for he was converted under the ministry of this pulpit. Brother Bliss, whom Brother Moody feels to be as truly raised up of God in his service of gospel song, as was Charles Wesley, is still one of our household, and thank God for this fellowship. They all pray earnestly for us as we do for them; and may God grant to endue both them and us with a double portion of His Spirit, and in the future exalt through all our labors, as never before, the gospel of salvation through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ."
In speaking of Moody's Y. M. C. A. work, Rev. F. G. Ensign, superintendent of the American Sunday-school Union, says: "The services of Dwight L. Moody in the early days of the Young Men's Christian Association were of inestimable value, and his influence has remained through all these later years as a benediction. From 1861 to 1870 no man was so constant and persistent in the work as was Mr. Moody. He gave to it the first labors of his early days, and the ripe thoughts of his mature years. As a well-known business man, in whose store Mr. Moody was once employed, said: 'Mr. Moody would make quite a good clerk if he had not so many other things on his hands.' Those other things were the eternal interests of his fellow men, and such a spirit as his could not be long confined even by the bounds that hold most men to the appointed desks by which they earn their daily bread. With an enthusiasm which could not be dampened, and an energy which never abated, Mr. Moody pursued his arrow-straight course.
"What he has done for communities and nations during these latter years, he did for the Association during his early days. It would be impossible to estimate his usefulness to the Association, or to catalogue the details of his successful work. The association claims him as its greatest single champion and honors him for the work that he did while here not less than for the work for the world's evangelization, which he has since pursued with great success. It rejoices that one whose training was in part obtained in its service should be so manifestly called of God to the great work in which he has since engaged.''