The Past of The Moody Church
Dr. Dixon prefaced his sermon by reading the following Articles of Faith from the constitution of the church:
- We believe in the only true God (John 17:3); the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost (Matthew 28:19). Who created all things (Revelation 4:11) and upholds all things by the power (Hebrews 1:3), in whom we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). A God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he (Deuteronomy 32:4), and he shall judge the world (Psalm 9:8).
- We believe all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works (2 Timothy 3:16, 17).
- We believe that by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned (Romans 5:12), and judgment came upon all men to condemnation (Romans 5:18). For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 6:23).
- We believe there is none other name under heaven, given among men whereby we must be saved (Acts 4:12). For other foundation can no man lay that is laid, which is Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 3:2). We also believe that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3, 4), and sat down on the right hand of the majesty on high (Hebrews 1:3), now to appear in the presence of God for us (Hebrews 9:24).
- We believe that God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16), and he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. And this is the record that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son, hath life, and he that hath not the Son of God, hath not life (1 John 5:10, 12).
- We believe that Christ, the head over all to the Church (Ephesians 1:22), hath commanded us to baptize in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Ghost (Matthew 28:19), and the same night in which He was betrayed, took bread; and when He had given thanks, He brake it and said: “Take, eat; this is my body which is broken for you; this do in remembrance of me.” After the same manner also He took the cup when He had supped, saying: “This cup is the New Testament in my blood. This do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me; for as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till he come” (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).
In accepting and subscribing to the above articles of faith, we, by no means, set aside or undervalue any of the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, but believe all to be God’s own written word, given to us through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, but the knowledge and belief of the truth as stated in our articles of faith, we deem necessary to sound doctrine, and thereby requisite for Christian fellowship.
The text this morning is two little words that occur thirty-one times in the eleventh chapter of the letter to the Hebrews—“By faith.”
By faith we understand that the worlds were framed, whether we be scientists or theologians. By faith we offer sacrifices unto God as Abel did. By faith we walk with God as Enoch did. By faith we hear God as Noah did. By faith we obey God as Abraham did. By faith we refuse the pleasures and treasures and the honors of Egypt for the glory of God as Moses did. This movement begun in faith has continued in faith; God help us to perpetuate it in faith.
As one stands on the top of a mountain and looks out on the landscape, few things are more beautiful as part of the scenery than a majestic river flowing through the valleys and between the hills and mountains in its course toward the ocean. And still more interesting is the tracing of the river up to its source and watching the streams that flow in from the surrounding country and swelling the volume of the on-rushing water. We will do that or something like it, for a few minutes this morning. We want to look at the source of this movement and then trace at a glance the flowing and enlarging of the river that has grown wider and deeper as the years have gone by.
The beginning was born in the heart and brain of D.L. Moody and his co-workers. Most churches organize Sunday Schools, but in this case the Sunday School organized the church. The Sunday School was 1200 strong when the church of twelve members, for the most part Sunday School converts, was organized, and the list of superintendents, beginning with Moody, then Farwell, and Hitchcock and Gaylord and Reiner, have appreciated the importance of work among the young and it has been a feeder of the church ever since its organization.
Out of this Sunday School grew not only the church but the “Friendly Bible Class,” which has a history of usefulness, and the “Young Ladies’ Bible Class,” in which so many characters have been moulded for Christ, and the “Young Men’s Class” that has been a power in reaching the young men and winning them to the Master, and the many other classes, as well as our orchestra, and brass band recently formed. Out of the church proper has come the “Yokefellow Band,” organized in the building before the church moved to this corner, the various missionary societies and other agencies that would take too much time even to mention. Church and Sunday School working together in their efforts to reach the community and the city and the country and the world for Christ.
Out of it all, through Sunday School and church, has come a movement of sacred song that has gone with the preaching of the gospel around the globe. Gospel song was largely born at the beginning of this movement. I find little record of it any time before. There were the stately hymns of the church with the great anthems and oratorios, but the movement of gospel song that carries the truth in melody into the palaces of kings and the cottages of peasants, into distant heathen lands, even into Africa, away into India, had its beginning largely in this movement that God began with Mr. Moody. Ira D. Sankey organized the first choir; and, if last Sunday I was understood to say anything reflecting upon the choir, I wish to make a public apology and ask forgiveness. The anthem is Christian music, and it appeals to the refined and cultured musically, and I praise God for all the good that it has done, but my intense love of gospel song may lead me too far in emphasizing the importance simply of the gospel song work in winning souls to Christ. Our choir and our junior choir have been used mightily of God, not only in making a spirit and an atmosphere in which to work through the singing of the gospel, but in winning souls directly to the Lord. I wish to express publicly my appreciation of the work of both choirs, and of Dr. Towner’s sacrifice of money and of time and of strength, as he has given himself to the training of our chorus choir. But the great work that God began here and spread over the world was a work of gospel preaching accompanied by gospel song. With Moody and Sankey it went first and then with Torrey and Alexander it went again, so that from this corner have gone out two great movements of evangelizing power that have circled the globe.
Someone said to another, “Whatever may be said of this latter day movement, it has given us a great many ditties and jingles; it has lowered and vitiated the standard of music in the modern church.” The reply was, “If that be true, we ought to remember that it has added several millions to the choir of heaven and in the long run, perhaps music will not be the loser.” Certain it is that gospel song has carried the truth with the gospel preaching unto millions of people of all tongues and nationalities. I have been praying that through the gospel song an atmosphere for Christ and truth may be made in this city, so intense, so pure, so full and powerful that hundreds and thousands shall be won to Christ in the midst of it. I believe it is possible within two or three months, if we will go about it prayerfully, industriously, faithfully and humbly to fill this whole city of Chicago with the gospel in song.
When Moody and Sankey were in Europe there was a joke made in the theatre at their expense, and the people hissed off the stage the man that made it. In Dublin, Barnum’s circus came to town in the midst of the meetings and one of the clowns said to another, “I feel a little ‘Moody’ today.” And the other replied, “I am a little ‘Sankey-timonious,’” and the great crowd of several thousand people hissed, and one man of stentorian voice rose and began to sin, “Hold the Fort for I am Coming.” Six thousand people took up the song and the clowns had to get out. What was done there can be done in Chicago, and I want you to pray for it and work for it, until God shall accomplish it for His glory.
Our Confession of Faith.
The Secret of Success from the beginning to the present day is in the creed that I read to you. It begins with the words, “We believe,” and if there is one thing that had distinguished this church above any other, it has been the fact that its members believe something. Just read the creed through and you will find what they believe. They believe that believing is important, that the man who has faith will have power.
They believe, first of all, in a great God; and the second article of the creed which has made this church and every stream that has gone out from it is this, faith in a great Bible. The third article is that man is a great sinner; the fourth is that Jesus Christ is a great Saviour; the fifth is that God’s plan of salvation is great in its simplicity; the sixth is that the institution known as the church is a great institution, founded by Christ and kept by the power of God; and the seventh is in the charge given to the new members that it is our privilege to subdue the flesh and live the victorious life, rendering unto God acceptable service in Christ. It would take ten hours to expound this creed, but I just want you to look at it with me for a few minutes.
“We believe in the only true God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” This church has never fallen into the heresy that God is the Father of all men. Jesus said to the Pharisees, “Ye are of your father, the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do,” and then again we are told, “To as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God.” We believe in the fatherhood of God, co-existent with the brotherhood of Christ, and not one without the other, though there is a brotherhood of sin and humanity and suffering that we all share.
“We believe in God, the Son.” There never has, so far as I know, gone out from this corner or this movement, an assertion against the deity of Jesus Christ. Men and women and children here worship Christ as God. They fall at His feet with Thomas, and say with love and humility, “My Lord and my God.”
“We believe in God, the Holy Spirit.” We believe in the personality of the Holy Spirit. Mr. Moody, while walking down a street in New York, received by a definite act of faith, the Holy Spirit for power, and he was so filled and thrilled that he could not explain his feelings. He rarely ever spoke about it. It was a Holy of Holies into which he would not take many people, but he received by a definite act of faith the Holy Spirit for power, as he had received Jesus Christ for salvation, and that has been emphasized in every department of our work. “God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,” is our God.
Phillips Brooks said, standing in the midst of a Unitarian community, “I believe in the Trinity, because the Trinity makes a great God, and any part of the Trinity is not all of the Deity.” We will not stop to argue that, but the secret of the success of this movement has been faith in the God who created the worlds and holds them by the word of His power, in whom we live; no absentee God, but a God with us and in us, for the accomplishment of His own purposes.
We believe in a divinely inspired Bible. “All Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” There never has gone out, so far as I know, from this movement any uncertain sound as to the inspiration of the Bible. Some individual here and there may have spoken it, but it received not response from those that were responsible for the movement. A Bible that is clearly inspired, a Bible that is the word of God, a Bible that is the sword of the Spirit, and a Bible by learning which we equip ourselves for work and become mighty in the service of our Master. It was this fact which led Mr. Moody to the establishment of the Moody Bible Institute, which was itself founded in prayer.
In the twilight one evening Elder Morrison was passing this corner and he saw a human form standing at the edge of a pool of water. He went toward the form, and as he approached it perceived it was Mr. Moody, and he said, “Why, what are you doing here?” Mr. Moody turned round and said, “Morrison, let us pray that God will give us this lot for a Bible school,” and this is the lot on which the Institute stands to-day. A pool of water and Mr. Moody praying for a house for God, and the transformation has taken place.
It is not quite accurate to speak of the Moody Bible Institute as a child of this church. This church and the Institute were both born in the brain and heart of D.L. Moody, and the Institute is a younger sister of the church. A sort of twin sister, if you please; if you want to put it stronger, a sort of Siamese-twin sister. If you cut them apart you kill both, in my humble judgment, or you would hurt them so badly that they could not prosper very well afterwards. Two distinct organizations, but working harmoniously together was Mr. Moody’s ideal. The study of the Bible, the investigation of the truth inside the Book; not so much about it as in it, was Mr. Moody’s motto, and that has been adhered to very strictly by those in charge of the Bible Institute ever since. The Institute is to the church and the other churches of evangelical Christendom what West Point is to the United States. It is the place where the young soldiers are trained in the use of the sword of the Spirit and sent out into the army of God to do valiant things for Him.
A Great Saviour.
The third part of the creed is that we are all sinners, exposed to eternal death. By sin death entered. An eternal death. There has been no putting of a false bottom in the bottomless pit. There has been no attempt to cover up the fires of the lake that burns with fire and brimstone. There has been no denial of God’s threatening or of His promises. We believe in future retribution, in the bottomless pit for those who will not accept eternal redemption, as we believe in the topless height for those that accept life everlasting, the uplift in this world and the next. No uncertain sound has gone out from this movement as to the fact that men are sinners, exposed to eternal hell. That fact has made stamina of character, earnestness in work; “knowing the terror of the Lord, we persuade men,” and we stand against putting the sinner to sleep by holding out any sort of hope that in the other world there may be a chance for him.
The next article in the creed is that Jesus Christ is a great Saviour. “No other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved”; we are saved through the death and resurrection and the intercession of our Lord. The atoning blood is magnified. Mr. Moody went to a town to hold a series of meetings, and among the first men that called to see him was a pastor. He said, “Mr. Moody, I have called to ask you not to preach on the blood. It is repulsive to the cultivated people of this little city.” Mr. Moody replied, “I thank you, sir, for coming and telling me the condition of affairs, and I shall preach on the blood for just one week every day,” and he did, until God shook that town to its foundation and hundreds were converted. That has been the attitude of this movement. “The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses from all sin.” Under the blood we are saved. Jesus Christ rose from the dead, and by His resurrection confirms the efficacy of the blood. A complete, full and powerful salvation in Christ.
The next article of the creed is that the plan of salvation is great in its simplicity. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life,” “and he that believeth not the record hath made Him a liar.” Salvation by faith in Christ, not by character. That is a pitiable salvation. It is a partial salvation; it is an incomplete salvation, if any salvation at all; but a salvation that makes character, which will last for time and for eternity, is a salvation worth having. If there is one we do pity above another, it is the poor man or woman who thinks that he is perfect enough to be saved without the atoning blood of Christ. We pity him for his Phariseeism; we pity him for his low standard of character; we pity him because there is no peace of God in his soul until he realizes his sinfulness and comes under the blood.
The next article in this creed is that there is a church founded by Christ, and the heresy that the church of Jesus Christ is a sort of compromise and failure, bearing the relation to God that the kingdom of Israel bore when the people asked for a king in their unbelief and disobedience, does not find any response certainly in my heart, and so far as I know it, never did in the heart of Mr. Moody. Jesus Christ said, “On this rock I will build my church,” and He never said, “I’ll build a failure; I’ll build a piece of disobedience.” The church of which Jesus Christ is the head and we are the members is no failure. It is built by Christ. The church organism takes the whole spiritual body without officers, but every member having the same position, being equal. Then the organization of the local church, with ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and the officers that are marked out in the New Testament. In this church it has been left to each individual to interpret the Scriptures as to baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and we have had here the finest example on earth of which I know of this motto, which is, I believe, the motto the church has incarnated from the very first in the minds of its members: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, loyalty; in all things, love” In essentials of salvation we must be together. You cannot work with a man who will not bow his knee to Jesus—you have to work on him. You cannot work with a man who does not believe in the new birth—you have to work on him. Unity in essentials, and then when you come to the non-essentials, loyalty; every man living up to the light he has, and when he gets more light, following that light. That bothered me as to baptism for quite a while. I was perfectly willing that everyone should follow the light he has to interpret the Bible for himself, and then I was perfectly willing that the other fellow should be permitted to do the same thing. That is the Roger Williams rock-bottom principle of religious liberty, but it took me quite a while to get willing for the other fellow to do it under the same roof. I was perfectly willing for him to follow his convictions across the street, or on the other side of the town, but it rather riled me when I saw it under the same roof. God has given me grace to believe that every individual should follow the light that God has given him, and let the other fellow do it under the same roof, in the same family, and, if need be, in the same organization. So, when a child is sprinkled here I do not take any part in it except to say, “God bless the mother and save that child,” and when he gets old enough let him follow Christ for himself. Whenever there is a difference of conviction we express it, but we do it in love and kindness. Every man standing for his conviction and then loving the other fellow, if he thinks differently. Meeting under the blood and beside the open sepulcher, with the glory from heaven and our risen Lord, letting other people follow their convictions, and when they get more light follow that light, and we will help you get it the best we can. Interdenominational in policy and spirit, but true to Christ and the Bible, is the motto incarnated in this great church of our Lord.
One more thought. The latter part of our creed holds forth the possibility of victory over sin and the flesh—over impatience, over unkindness, over an unforgiving spirit, and giving the opportunity of doing good to everybody, especially to the household of faith. It first deals with the inner heart and then with the outer life.
The Pre-Eminent Christ.
When I came into this auditorium last night and looked up there, I said, “I do not know who did it or conceived it, but that is the right relation.” There is the blessed old flag, and there is D.L. Moody, whom I loved as I loved few men on earth, who took me by the hand and spoke words of counsel; who helped me in so many ways—and up yonder, above all, is a picture of Jesus. Moody would have said, “Put Jesus ‘way up; ‘way up.” I think he would have said, “Put Him higher—above all flags, and all beings, and all worlds. Let Jesus have the pre-eminence in sermon, song and life.” Jesus shall have the pre-eminence. Above all men, creeds and organizations, we crown Jesus as our King. We take Him as our Saviour; we worship Him as our God. When I looked at Moody down here and Jesus up there, I said, “I wish I could climb up to the first. God help me to be as true to my convictions, as loyal to the Master, and as self-sacrificing; crucified to the world, as D.L. Moody was.” It is a long, painful process with me. Crucifixion is usually a lingering death, and I have not been without my crown of thorns. The process of the old man dying to the world and self is long and painful, but I give up to my God to continue it, and, if I flinch from it, my Master, don’t mind it; drive in the nails anyhow. If I shrink from it let the crucifixion continue, until the old Dixon is dead, and Jesus Christ is alive in every fibre of my being, is my heart’s desire.
One day Mr. Moody heard a man say, “God is looking for the man who is willing to be utterly devoted to Him,” and Moody looked up into God’s face and said, “Lord, God, my Father, here is the man willing to be utterly devoted to Thee. Wilt Thou take him and just devote him to Thyself.” That was the substance of his prayer, and God heard it. I pray that for myself and for you. And yet that is too selfish. Let self go—I would like to be the dust under His feet on which Jesus might walk to the throne. Be spit upon and be condemned, if need be, that the Spirit of Jesus and the glory of Jesus be manifested to the world. But my prayer is and has been, “Oh God, Thou God of the church, Lord Jesus, who did found it upon a Rock, whose Bride it is, may this Moody Church be the one church, if there be no other, upon which Thou canst look and say, “Here is one church utterly devoted to Christ, pastor and people on the altar ablaze for God; every brick in it a Calvary, every home a Calvary, every Sunday School class a Calvary, and every day a Calvary, on which we shall offer ourselves, living sacrifices unto Jesus Christ our Lord.”
There came from the lips of D.L. Moody as he was changing worlds, “Earth is receding, heaven is opening, God is calling.” Oh God, let earth recede now. Do not wait until death. Let heaven open now, and let us hear the voice, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” as we do Thy will faithfully before the gates of pearl shall swing ajar. God is calling now, not to the heavenly streets of gold, not to the heaven with the pearly gates and walls of jasper, but to the heaven that can be made on the dirty streets of Chicago, amid the bustling business of the loop district, the heaven that can by His grace be made out of the hell of the red-light district. God give us a heaven of obedience to Christ, as we listen to the call of God that comes from the risen Christ this morning.