written by: Warren Wiersbe
Chapter 5: The Battle for Britain
“I go where I can do the most good. That is what I am after. It is souls I want–it is souls I want!”
Moody spoke those words to some British friends in 1873. He had recently arrived in Britain, responding to an invitation from three leading English Christians- Henry Bewley, Cuthbert Bainbridge and William Pennefather. To his dismay, he had discovered that Bainbridge and Pennefather were both dead and that Bewley was not expecting him!
But Moody was not the kind of man who quit easily. He had in his pocket a letter from George Bennet, who was secretary of the YMCA at York, so he wired Bennet that he was coming. The man was shocked by the news and informed Moody that it would take weeks for them to get ready for a meeting. Bennet’s arguments meant nothing to Moody, who promptly went to York and started preaching the Word, with Sankey singing his way into the hearts of the people.
The British congregations were suspicious and for a time kept their distance. “One has an organ and performs on that,” went the report. “The other tells stories.” And everybody waited to see what the “catch” was and how these uninvited American guests would make a profit out of the meetings. Attendance was not large, and the spirit of the meet-ings was nothing exciting.
Then God touched a pastor’s heart, and the whole atmosphere began to change. The young pastor of the Priory Street Baptist Chapel was brought under deep conviction at the noon prayer meeting. He had been “beating the air” in his ministry, and when Moody had preached on the Holy Spirit, the pastor realized his need and how God could meet it. That man was F. B. Meyer, whose ministry of the Word was greatly used around the world and whose many books minister to hearts even today.
Meyer even permitted Moody to use his church building for extra services, and by now the tide was beginning to flow in. A large crowd came to hear Moody at the Corn Exchange, and one of the leading religious newspapers in England began to report the meetings. F. B. Meyer was so blessed with his new vision of evangelism and ministry that his enthusiasm offended some of his officers, and he was asked to leave the church. “This is not a Gospel shop!” the irate officers told him. God opened the way for him to establish a new church in Leicester, “Melbourne Hall,” which still maintains a faithful witness.
After the ministry at York, Moody and Sankey moved to Sunderland and then Newcastle. Their friend Henry Moorehouse joined them and shared in the meetings. It was at Newcastle that Sacred Songs and Solos was first issued, published on September 16 by Marshall, Morgan and Scott. Known as the “Sankey Hymnbook,” this volume was just what Moody needed in his meetings, as most of the church hymnals did not contain Gospel songs with an evangelistic emphasis. Since that time, more than ten million copies of Sacred Songs and Solos have been sold. When the initial royalties started to come in, Moody offered them to his British friends for whatever ministries they chose; but they refused the money. So Moody sent the money back to Chicago where it was used to complete the Chicago Avenue Church building.
The tide continued to come in, so the team decided to invade traditional, evangelical Scotland, and on November 23, they opened a campaign in Edinburgh. It was not an encouraging beginning. For one thing, Moody was ill with tonsillitis; and for another, Sankey’s organ was in need of repairs. But start the meetings they did, and God began to bless.
Let me interrupt this report with an interesting sidelight. On October 19, just a few weeks before Moody and Sankey arrived, the leading “spiritual giant” of Scotland, Dr. R. C. Candish, died. Before he died, he predicted that there would come to Scotland “a great blessing which should not be despised, though it come strangely.” Moody and Sankey were the “strange” bearers of that blessing.
Here’s a humorous sidelight on the Edinburgh meetings. Sankey finally got his organ repaired (the Scots called it “a chest of whistles”) and sang the Gospel in the meetings. At one point, it was necessary to hold two meetings across the street from each other in order to accommodate the crowds. Sankey would sing in one church while Moody preached in the other, and then they would exchange places.
As Sankey began to sing in the one meeting, a faithful Presbyterian lady jumped up and ran from the meeting, shouting, “Let me oot! Let me oot! What would John Knox think of the like of ye!” She was offended, of course, by Sankey’s use of a musical instrument in a church. She went across the street to the other meeting, and when Sankey appeared to sing there, she jumped up and ran out again, still shouting, “Let me oot! Let me oot! What would John Knox think of the like of ye!”
It is worth noting that Sankey sang “The Ninety and Nine” for the first time in the Edinburgh campaign. The words were written by a frail Scottish lady, Elizabeth C. Clephane, who lived near Edinburgh. Sankey had found the poem in a newspaper he had purchased at the train depot and, impressed with the message, had put the clipping into his pocket. After preaching on the Good Shepherd, Moody turned to Sankey and asked him to sing an appropriate song, Asking God for help, Sankey put the words on his organ, struck A-flat and composed the tune as he went along. Moody then gave his invitation, and many “lost sheep” entered the inquiry room to find the Shepherd.
On February 8 the campaign moved to Glasgow, but all was not well. One of Scotland’s most famous preachers, the Rev. John Kennedy (“The Spurgeon of the Highlands”) opposed Mr. Moody’s ministry. The fact that some 3000 persons had been received into the Edinburgh churches as a result of Moody’s work did not impress Kennedy. He published a pamphlet “proving” that it was not scriptural for Moody to use “human hymns” instead of the Psalms, to play the organ in a church or to invite sinners into inquiry rooms.
However, not all of the leading clergy were opposed to the campaign, among them the saintly Andrew Bonar, noted pastor and special friend of Robert Murray McCheyne. “The tide of real revival in Edinburgh has been stirring up all of us,” he wrote in his journal on January 1, 1874. On February 10, he wrote: “This city has been at last visited, Moody and Sankey, sent by the Lord.” Bonar and many other pastors prayed earnestly that God would break through the religious complacency of the churches and that many sinners would come to the Saviour.
God answered their prayers as the tide kept deepening. On February 24 some 101 men professed faith in Christ in one meeting! When the campaign closed on April 19, the record showed that there had been more than 6000 professions of faith and that 7000 persons had united with local churches. Bonar wrote in his journal that he had a com-municant’s class of 52, all of them clear as to their salvation experience, and that 54 persons came to the Lord’s Table for the first time.
Moody and Sankey spent the summer months in the Scottish Highlands, ministering from town to town, and then in September moved to Ireland. In spite of some inclement weather and the prejudice of some Roman Catholic people, the meetings were a great success. Buildings were packed, and people responded to Moody’s simple presentation of the Gospel.
After five weeks in Belfast, the men moved their witness to Dublin where only one-fourth of the population was Protestant. But the crowds came, even though the archbishop issued an edict forbidding his people to attend. Even ridicule did not affect the ministry as the following story proves.
A couple of clowns performing at a Dublin circus tried to ridicule the evangelists with this routine: “I’m rather moody tonight. How do you feel?’
“I feel rather Sankeymonious.”
The audience began to hiss the so-called comedians and then began to sing “Hold the Fort.”
For the most part, the Roman Catholic publications were sympathetic with the meetings. One editor wrote: “The deadly danger of the age comes upon us from the direction of Huxley and Darwin and Tyndall, rather than from Moody and Sankey.” Moody’s positive message carried the day, and the British Weekly called the meetings “a Pentecost.”
The Irish campaign closed November 29, and Moody then preached in Manchester during December, in Birmingham in January and in Liverpool in February. The crowds came and people were converted, although not as many as Moody had hoped. On March 9 he tackled London with its three million people, Once again his biggest problem was with the clergy, so Moody held an informal session to answer their questions.
“How are you paid?” one minister asked.
“I have money enough for myself right in my pocket,” said Moody, “and do not ask for a cent.” (The fact was that Moody had single-handedly raised thousands of dollars for the construction of YMCA buildings and missions in Britain.)
“I am a ritualist,” said another minister. “Will you send me all my proper and rightful converts?”
Moody replied, “I am not here to divide up the profits but to get as many as I can to give their hearts to Jesus Christ.”
It seems that every Christian evangelist, from Peter to Martin Luther to John Wesley to Moody to our present day, has had his greatest problems with the ministers who should have been out winning the lost themselves.
An entire book could be written about the miracles of the London campaign. Wealthy sportsman Edward Studd came to Christ through Moody’s ministry, and eight years later his son C. T. Studd trusted Christ when Moody preached at Cambridge. Fifteen thousand men attended a special “Men Only” meeting, and many of them found Christ. It was estimated that 2.5 million people heard Moody and Sankey during the campaign and that the men conducted 285 different public meetings. The total budget ran $140,000!
On August 4, 1875, Moody left for home, arriving in the United States ten days later. It had been a triumphant campaign for Christ. He had won the battle for Britain.
Chapter 6: Secret of Success
Before we leave Moody and Sankey, let’s try to answer the question that many people asked then and still ask today: What was the secret of their success, not only in their British campaign but also in their ministry in general? When you read the reports and evaluations written in Moody’s day, you start to get a composite answer that seems to be valid.
To begin with, Moody himself was a Spirit-filled man who was burdened for souls. He had no interest in making money. He was not intimidated by “important people,” nor was he afraid to try something new. In fact, Moody stands as one of the great innovators in Christian ministry. If one approach did not work, being a good businessman, he tried another!
The meetings were undergirded with prayer. The noon prayer meeting was the most important meeting of the day to Moody. If it became dull or dead, he livened it up and got the people praying. “I’d rather be able to pray than to be a great preacher,” he once said. “Jesus Christ never taught His disciples how to preach, but only how to pray.”
Third, he worked in and through the church and encouraged ministers to forget their minor differences and work together to win the lost. This was not easy in Britain where the state church and the independents sometimes engaged in mutual suspicion and attack. “Satan separates,” said Moody, “God unites. Love binds us together.”
Moody used the Bible and kept the Bible before the people. During the two years of the British campaign, publishers could hardly keep up with the demand for Bibles. “I have observed that Mr. Moody speaks to inquirers with an open Bible in his hands,” wrote one reporter. Moody did not argue theology; he simply quoted the Bible and let God speak for Himself.
Several leaders mentioned the order and atmosphere of the meetings as a factor in Moody’s success. There was a spirit of worship, and ushers were trained to deal immediately with disturbances. When applause broke out in one meeting, it was instantly silenced, and often Moody would call for times of silent prayer and worship.
Everybody knew that Ira Sankey’s music was a key factor in the blessing of God on the meetings. Even the dour Scots finally yielded to the wooing of the portable organ and songs of the American singer. One reporter wrote: “He spoils the Egyptians of their finest music and consecrates it to the service of the tabernacle.” Both Moody and Sankey were courageous enough to use new hymns and Gospel songs in spite of the opposition of the traditionalists.
The campaign seemed a failure at the start, but God worked in a remarkable way and gave Britain perhaps the greatest spiritual movement since the days of Whitefield and Wesley. And He did it through two ordinary men who would not quit but who trusted God to bless His Word.
God can still do that today in our land or in any land. Henry Varley’s words are still true: “The world has yet to see what God can do with and for and through and in a man who is fully and wholly consecrated to Him.”
©2002 WWW Used by permission. This article is copyrighted by the author and is for your individual use. Reproduction for any other purpose is governed by copyright laws and is strictly prohibited. This material originally appeared in a small booklet entitled “Meet Mr. Moody” and is no longer in print.
Dr. Warren Wiersbe (1929-2019) was an internationally known Bible teacher, author, and conference speaker. He graduated in 1953 from Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lombard, Illinois. While attending seminary, he was ordained as pastor of Central Baptist Church in 1951 and served until 1957. From September 1957 to 1961, Wiersbe served as Director of The Literature Division for Youth for Christ International. From 1961 to 1971 he pastored Calvary Baptist Church of Covington, Kentucky south of Cincinnati, Ohio. His sermons were broadcast as the “Calvary Hour” on a local Cincinnati radio station. From 1971 to 1978, He served as the pastor of Moody Church in Chicago 1971 to 1978. While at Moody Church he continued in radio ministry. Between August 1979 and March 1982, he wrote bi-weekly for Christianity Today as “Eutychus X”, taught practical theology classes at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and wrote the course material and taught a Doctor of Ministry course at Trinity and Dallas Seminary. In 1980 he transitioned to Back to the Bible radio broadcasting network where he worked until 1990. Dr. Wiersbe became Writer in Residence at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids and Distinguished Professor of Preaching at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. In his lifetime, Dr. Wiersbe wrote over 170 books—including the popular Be series, which has sold over four million copies. Dr. Wiersbe was awarded the Gold Medallion Lifetime Achievement by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA).