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Dwight Moody: Selling Soles, Mending Souls

A farm boy whose father had died when the lad was four, left home at age seventeen to look for work. This boy, one of nine children, had attended school only through fifth grade. (1) His mother, unable to care for her large family, sent him to work for his uncle in a shoe store.

One of his uncle’s requirements was attending church. The boy’s Sunday School teacher, remembering him in later years, remarked, “I can truly say...that I have seen few persons whose minds were spiritually darker than was his when he came into my Sunday School class...and I think that the committee of seldom met an applicant for membership more unlikely ever to become a Christian of clear and decided views of Gospel truth, still less to fill any extended sphere of public usefulness.” (2)

Meet Dwight L. Moody, the young man who became one of the most powerful pulpiteers and soul winners of the nineteenth century. Yes, Moody was a most unlikely candidate for leadership or public speaking. But he had a love for souls.

He became a successful shoe salesman at his uncle’s store. And he became a follower of Christ when his Sunday School teacher visited him in the store’s stockroom and told him how much God loved him.

Then the day came when his beloved Sunday School teacher became ill and had to move to a healthier climate. He asked Dwight to take over his Sunday School class of young girls. The thought terrified the young man, though he agreed, nevertheless. The first Sunday was a disaster. The girls disturbed his teaching and laughed at him. It wasn’t until he accompanied his teacher to the home of each girl to say goodbye, that he began feeling a burden for their souls.

Dwight went from selling soles (on shoes) to mending souls (of people). He carried children to Sunday School, especially those of the lower classes. An observer said, “The first meeting I ever saw him at was in a little old shanty that had been abandoned by a saloon keeper. Mr. Moody had got the place to hold the meetings at night. I went there a little late; and the first thing I saw was a man standing up with a few tallow candles around him, holding a negro boy and trying to read to him the story of the Prodigal Son, and a great many words he could not read out and had to skip. I thought, ’if the Lord can ever use such an instrument as that for His honor and glory, it will astonish me.'" (2)

As a result of young Moody’s tireless labor, within a year the average attendance at his school was 650, while 60 volunteers from various churches served as teachers. President Lincoln even visited this Sunday School once and spoke at it.

Ever hear of the Wordless Book? Famous evangelist Charles Spurgeon developed it as a teaching tool in 1866. Three colors were used to present the gospel to illiterate people; Moody added a fourth color, gold, to represent heaven.

The efforts of this tireless pulpiteer took him overseas to hold meetings in England and Ireland. Children of the lower class everywhere were dear to his heart. He started Mount Hermon School for Boys as well as Northfield School for Girls. He moved from Massachusetts to Chicago and with the help of influential people, started the Chicago Bible Institute (later named Moody Bible Institute).

A heart for the downtrodden masses motivated a school dropout to preach to crowds of thousands of people years later. What could be holding us back?

Any thoughts on Moody--or thoughts on God using unlikely people? Feel free to comment below.


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