THE LAST OF THE GREAT GROUP.
BY REV. DR. NEWELL DWIGHT HILLIS IN "THE
When long time hath passed, some historian, recalling the great epochs and religious teachers of our century, will say, "There were four men sent forth by God: their names—Charles Spurgeon, Phillips Brooks, Henry Ward Beecher, and Dwight L. Moody." Each was a herald of good tidings; each was a prophet of a new social and religious order, and each made a permanent contribution to the Christian church; while of all it may be said their sermons were translated into many tongues and their names known in every town and city where the English language is spoken. For our instruction, rebuke and inspiration God hath raised up other preachers, representing a high order of intellect, marked eloquence, and permanent influence; but as to the first order of greatness, there have been perhaps these four—no more. God girded each of these prophets for his task, and taught him how to "dip his sword in heaven." In characterizing the message of these men we say that Spurgeon was expositional, Phillips Brooks devotional, Henry Ward Beecher prophetic and philosophical, while Dwight L. Moody was a herald rather than teacher,
addressing himself to the common people—the unchurched multitudes. The symbol of the great English preacher is a lighted lamp, the symbol of Brooks a flaming heart, the symbol of Beecher an orchestra of many instruments, while Mr. Moody was a trumpet, sounding the advance, sometimes through inspiration and sometimes through alarm.
And our sorrow to-day is the more, in that the last of these giants has gone down to the valley and disappeared behind the thick shadow. Oft in hours of gloom and doubt, full oft in days when wickedness seemed enthroned in high places, when the rich seemed to be selfish in their strength, and the poor without an advocate in high places, when good men seemed weakness and leaders seemed a lie, in our depression we have turned our thoughts toward the three prophets, in the English Tabernacle, in Trinity and in Plymouth, or toward the evangelist and friend of the people, and have been comforted by the mere thought that things were a little safer because these four men were in their appointed places. The first three were commanders, each over his regiment, and worked from a fixed center, but the evangelist was the leader of a flying band, who went everywhither into the enemy's country,seeking conquests of peace and righteousness. Be the reasons what they may, the common people gladly heard the great evangelist. In his death, the unchurched classes have lost their best friend. Fallen now their tower of strength. Changed, too, the very face of our moral landscape. For nearly forty years the multitudes have pressed and thronged into the great halls and churches to hear this herald speak of duty, sin, salvation, and God's love in Christ. But disappearing from our sight he is not dead. While life continues, for multitudes he will remain a cool spring flowing in a desert, the covert of a rock in time of sorrow.
For the republic, the roll-call of self-made men is long and brilliant. Orators like Clay come in from the corn-fields, statesmen like Webster come from the bleak hillsides of New England, presidents like Lincoln come forth from the university of rail-splitting, the inventors, merchants, and editors come in from rural districts and villages, and all are the architects of their own fortunes. But among all this group of men whose life in low estate began on a simple village green, none is more thrilling in its struggles,more picturesque in its contrasts, and more pathetic in its defeats and victories than that of the great evangelist. An orphan at four, one of the props of the family at nine, at nineteen a clerk in a shoe store of Chicago, at twenty-three the founder of a Young Men's Christian Association, where he slept on the benches because he had no bed, and bought a loaf at the bakery because he had no money for board. At twenty-four, the superintendent of a Sunday-school in a deserted saloon, where his pupils were drunkards, tramps, ragamuffins, mingled with street waifs and boys from a newsboys' home. At forty, the most widely-talked-about man in Great Britain, where his friends were college presidents and professors, authors, editors, statesmen, scientists, like Drummond and Lord Kelvin. Returning home, in Philadelphia, he found that merchants had erected for his meetings a building seating ten thousand people, an event that was repeated in New
York, Boston, Chicago, and many other great cities in our land. At fifty-three he founded a training school for young men and women in Chicago that has sent out fifteen hundred workers, a school for young men at East Northfield, and for young women at Mount Hermon, institutions that now have for their work more than a score of great buildings. Thrilling, indeed, this story. It repeats the experience of young David, who passed from the sheepscote to the king's throne, and the scepter of universal sway.
"Where were the hidings of his power?" you ask. From nothing, nothing comes. Blood tells. A great ancestry explains a great man. The time was when men thought God called the prophet. But when God wants a John the Baptist, he calls not the son, but the father and mother, and they ordain the child in the cradle, and before the cradle. When the Hebrews were in bondage in Egypt, one mother there was, brave enough to dare the king, and hide her babe in an ark, amidst the bulrushes, and the mother's courage repeated itself in the greatest of jurists, Moses. Hannah was a dreamer who loved solitude, and walked the hills alone with God; whose eyes "were homes of silent prayer," and her religious genius repeated itself in her son Samuel, one of the greatest of the judges. What was unique in Timothy, Paul tells us, was first of all unique in his mother Lois, and his grandmother Eunice. And the greatest evangelist since Whitefield had his power through the ordainment of a great ancestry. He was of the best old New England stock. His father had the fine old Puritan fiber, and his mother, widowed with her little flock about her, exhibits almost unparalleled heroism, courage, and hope in the hour of suffering and trouble. For the tides of power in this man flow down from the ancestral hills. Among his birth gifts was the gift of perfect health and a perfect body, with stores of energy that seemed wellnigh inexhaustible.
His, also, was the gift of common sense, a mind hungry for knowledge, a reason that saw clearly or saw not at all; moral earnestness, sincerity, selfreliance, courage, wit, humor, pathos, an intuitive knowledge of men, the genius for organization. Like Isaiah, he had a quenchless passion for righteousness. Like Daniel, he had the courage of his convictions in the face of fierce opposition. Like Paul, his enthusiasm for men made him the herald of righteousness to foreign nations. Like Bernard, his was the crusader's heart, organizing his hosts against passion, ignorance and sin. Without the eloquence of Spurgeon, without the fine culture of Phillips Brooks, without the supreme genius of Mr. Beecher, Mr. Moody was a herald, a man sent forth from God, who called the unchurched classes to repentance, who flamed forth on them the love of God in Christ. For nearly six years, it is said that Mr. Moody's audiences averaged five thousand, each afternoon and evening. A record that has never been surpassed ia all the history of evangelism. "Our bishops," said the London Telegraph, "have back of them a state income, great cathedrals, a small army of paid helpers and musicians, bnt where our bishops have reached tens this man has reached hundreds.''
If preaching is man making and man mending, then Mr. Moody was a veritable prince among preachers. In view of the great audiences of fifteen thousand people that thronged into, or about, the hall in Kansas City, where he preached his last sermon, all must confess that no preacher in the land since Mr. Beecher's time was comparable to Mr. Moody in personal popularity, or in power to hold the masses. Any student skilled in the art of reading human nature, who has been upon the plat1 5 form beside the great evangelist, and while listening to his words has noted their effects upon the faces of the vast audience before him, must make haste to affirm that Mr. Moody knew the human mind and heart as a skillful musician knows his instrument, and sweeps all the banks of keys before him. In the addresses that were given no element of great speech was lacking. Mr. Moody moved his audiences from tears to laughter; for laughter and tears are outer signs of inner thoughts and feelings. Life is determined by the emotions of the heart quite as much as by the arguments of the head. No matter how scholarly or intellectual the preacher may be, he is at best a second-rate preacher whose truth burns with a cold, white light. Truth in the hands of an intellectual philosopher who has found his way into the pulpit, cuts with a keen edge, indeed, but truth in Mr. Moody's hands has been heated red hot, and the edge of his sword burns as well as cuts; like the Word of God, dividing between the joints and marrow, and separating the sinner from his evil deeds.
No misconception can be greater than to suppose that Mr. Moody has succeeded in spite of his lack of theological preparation. My old professor of dogmatic theology criticised me harshly during my student days for going to hear Mr. Moody on Sunday morning. Because the great evangelist was a layman, and unordained, this distinguished theologian said that he declined to attend any of Mr. Moody's meetings during his great campaign in a city in which this professor had formerly resided. It is true that Mr. Moody had never crossed the threshold of college or theological seminary. Moreover, in his enthusiasm he often used the vernacular, homely idioms, and in every sermon broke some of the laws of grammar or of rhetoric. But nothing is risked in the statement that it was a great good fortune for him that he never found his way into a theological seminary. Nevertheless, he was a past master in his chosen art. He reached men, not because he knew so little about preaching, but because he knew so much. Could some scholar take a volume of Mr. Moody's sermons, and condense his thoughts, methods, appeals and illustrations into a volume of homiletics, the book would be so large and comprehensive that the ordinary work on the art of preaching would not make an introduction thereto. Taken all in all, for the work of an evangelist, this man represents more culture, and more thought about the methods of reaching the common people than any other man in his generation. To him it has been given to meet all the great preachers of the day, and to work with them. His was also the power of selection from each Spurgeon, or Maclaren, or Brooks, or Beecher, and from each he selected his special gift and excellence. Having spent eight months of each year in working with the foremost pastors at home and abroad, he has had four months in summer for study and conference. Those who have seen Mr. Moody's library know that this man has been a student of books as well as men. Superficial, indeed, the judgment of those who think that Mr. Moody was without education, or training, or logic, or knowledge of preaching as a science. With him preaching became a fine art, an art that conceals the art. Did our theological seminaries multiply their three years of study by two, they could not hope to equip their students as long study and experience with men and books have equipped Mr. Moody. The methods the great evangelist adopted gather up the experience of twenty years of working with the greatest preachers of England, Scotland and America. Perhaps of all the arts and occupations in our age, not one is comparable to the art of preaching. It demands the highest talent, the deepest culture, tireless practice and complete consecration And happy the generation to whom God gave this herald of good tidings, this friend of the common people, this messenger to the unchurched multitudes, who followed him as their leader along those paths that lead to prosperity and peace, to Christ, man's Saviour, to God, man's Father.