Bethesda Tabernacle Church, Sunderland - D L Moody (1873)

FOUR years next July, at one of my annual visits to Dublin, along with other guests entertained by my friend Henry Bewley, Esq., of that city, was a rough-looking man, whose language and intonation plainly marked him as a thorough-bred American, without any high refinement or liberal education.

At night, as there were many in the house, he and I were appointed to share one large double-bedded room, and having knelt down to prayer before retiring to sleep, he began with a simple but affectionate address, "Dear Jesus, we do love Thee." That was music in my ears, and quite enough to mark him as a genuine worshipper. From that hour my heart clung to him. This was Mr Moody.

After that I saw little of him, though we crossed the Channel together, he going to London and I to the North. The next time I heard of him he was at York, in 1873, in company with Mr Sankey. I invited him to Sunderland. He replied that, as an engagement at Scarborough had fallen through, he would willingly come if I had no objections to his friend bringing a small American organ with him to accompany him in singing some new and appropriate hymns, and appropriate hymns. Well, this proposal was strange to me but not being hypocritical and having faith in the man I consented. Mr Sankey then came from York to converse with me on the subject, and to prepare the way. He also stayed in my house that night and at the appointed time in the middle of July 1873; Messrs Moody and Sankey arrived in Sunderland and started a programme which they have since repeated in the largest towns in the three kingdoms, but with very different results.

Though their labours were attended with some good, yet the contrast between their welcome in Sunderland and elsewhere was most striking, but not unaccountable. Indeed, so striking is it that Sunderland is, as far as I have seen omitted in the notices of towns they have visited; it is a gap in the hedge of their labours. The reason of this is, that only two or three ministers co-operated, and there was no general sympathy or co-operation, and hence no general result. In fact there stood "one amongst us whom we knew not," as is proved by the tremendous disparity between the noon-day prayer-meetings in Bethel Schoolroom, when the evangelists were here, and which were only attended by a few dozen people, with the immense multitudes which afterwards assembled in Scotland, Ireland and now in London, where the greatest halls are continually crowded. 

Mr Moody, having learned wisdom by experience, always afterwards endeavoured to enlist the sympathy and co-operation of ministers of all denominations and made a rule never to visit any town where he was not welcomed by Christians of every name. This rule at first could not be carried out, but from his past success he now insists upon it. This union commenced at Newcastle, September, 1873, through the agency of a friend of mine, whom I invited to see the work at Sunderland,  and who introduced Mr Moody to the different ministers of the Northumbrian capital. A committee was formed, by the united efort of which they were able to secure a general success.

Soon after Mr Moody visited Sunderland, Mr Kelman, Presbyterian minister of Leith called upon me, and consulted me about inviting the evangelists to Edinburgh. I strongly advised the invitation, and, as you know, in Edinburgh they established their fame." Their success was prodigious and unexampled, and insured their success in every other place which they might in future visit, for, as the proverb says, "There is nothing so successful as success." From that time to the present they might have had inscribed upon their banners wheresoever they went the well-known words of Casar, " Veni, vidi, vici!"

In Glasgow, Belfast, Dublin, Birmingham, Manchester, Sheffield, Liverpool and London, they have gone forth conquering and to conquer. As to London, I am able to speak from personal observations. The noon-day prayer meetings in Exeter Hall, which accommodated about three thousand people were crowded every day, though conducted exactly in the same manner as they were in the Bethel Schoolroom here, where not fifty people attended. Nor could anyone enter the platform in the London hall without a ticket; and as to the Agricultural Hall, at Islington, where the great cattle shows of the metropolis are held, and which holds about 14,000 people, it was filled an hour before the time announced for commencing. It was only by obtaining a ticket, not without difficulty, and being there at least half an hour before the time, that I could get upon the platform.

When there I beheld a sight such as I never saw before - a very sea of faces, Indeed, there never were so many souls assembled under one roof night after night over a religious object before in the history of the world. It was impossible for some to hear a word of what was said, and a London minister remarked to me that not half could hear at all and many could only hear very imperfectly. You may judge of the difficulty in getting seats when I tell you that starting from Hackney for Islington in the omnibus I found that it was crowded inside and I was obliged to take an outside seat, whilst the trains were filled from end to end, each vehicle being placarded with the words, "Moody and Sankey at the Agricultural Hall."

I also attended the noon-day prayer meeting at Her Majesty's Opera House, Haymarket, a vast and beautiful structure with four galleries. The body of the house and two of the galleries were filled and there was a fair sprinkling of faces in the other two. I then went to the vast hall at Bow Row, which held 10,000 people, erected for that object and built of wood and zinc, with five pointed rooves, at an immense cost.

Indeed, as to the question of money, it will require at least £20,000 for the services in London. This hall was filled before the services began and I noticed how all eyes were strained in the direction of the platform so soon as Mr Moody entered, and there as at the Agricultural Hall perhaps not three-fourths could hear, as was evident when hundreds went out in the middle of the discourse. Mr Sankey, indeed, made his slow and distinct articulation to, be heard by all, and when he sang the last verse of "Jesus of Nazareth passeth by;" there was dead silence in the immense assembly. But the nightly and unparalleled crowds would be a transient wonder of little interest if there was no corresponding spiritual results - if sinners were not saved.

And it is the almost unanimous testimony of the best and most experienced ministers, that wherever these men have gone their labours are followed by conversions on a prodigious scale; and it is not to be supposed that this uniform and wide-spread testimony is unfounded. Mr Dale, of Birmingham, by no means a fanatic, has given his own observations in that city, to the effect that great good had been done amongst all classes. And similar results have sprung from the labours of those evangelists in every town they have visited. Testimony after testimony was borne when I was in London by reliable men of the good that had already been accomplished by their efforts in the metropolis.

Now the question is, and it is a puzzle, what is the secret of this unparalleled success and what can explain the great movement, which, more or less, directly or indirectly what has effected what was never effected before, namely
from one end to the other and from the Queen to her meanest subjecy; for I have reason to know that Her Majesty is interested in this movement.  On this question I desire to speak with caution, for it is a solemn and weighty theme. Let me give my views of the human elements of success. First, the evangelists are foreigners, unrecommended by any sect or party, and they have no sectarian prejudice to encounter as any Englishman would have had. Secondly, this unsectarian position enlisted the sympathy of all sects and all ministers, who brought their united influence to bear on the common object of saving souls by these foreign evangelists, and this was certain to insure the attendance of crowds of church and chapel-goers at their services. Thirdly, as the men were strange, so were their methods. Not only was the solo singing a novelty but the tunes and hymns were quite new in this country. Some of them are very taking, indeed they are like popular glees, and anyone with ear and voice can hum and sing or whistle them after first hearing, and hence they are hummed, sung, and played by bands throughout the three kingdoms.

Fourth, Mr Moody's anecdotes, which often take up half his time in preaching, are like the butter on the bread - as thick, in fact, as the bread itself - and are striking, impressive, pathetic, tragic, comic, as occasion demands Fifth, the advertisements of the services have been what I may call enormous, both by religious and secular journals, by placards on every wall, and announcements in every pulpit, which would be certain to draw crowds to the places of meeting.

Sixth, the wide-spread report of the marvellous results in the way of the conversion of sinners, the restoration of backsliders, the reviving of Christians, was sure to influence all those classes who were seriously disposed or anxious to reach a better state of mind to attend the meetings.

Seventh, Mr Moody is himself an attraction, as a man with intense conviction, profound earnestness, indomitable energy, great administrative talent, excellent generalship, marvellous tact and absolute will; the effect which is, he is kingly, almost despotic wherever he goes. He leads ministers of all denominations, comprising University professors, doctors of divinity, masters of arts, etc. Sunday school teachers, YMCA  and in fact, workers of all kinds are at his beck and call.

As to his style of preaching, hear Mr Dale of Birmingham, "One of the elements of Mr Moody's power is his perfect naturalness. He has something to say and he says it. He is as simple when speaking to 13,000 people as to 13. He talks in a perfectly consistent and straightforward way, just as if he was talking to half a dozen old friends by his fireside."

But all this cannot account for his continued triumph and increasing success. There must be a divine element in the work and my opinion is that no one is more astonished at the stir they have made throughout the kingdom than the evangelists themselves. No one sees more clearly than they do that there is no human proportion between the labourers and their achievements. Mr Dale says: "I told Mr Moody that the work was of God, for I could see no real relation between him and what he had done. He laughed cheerily and said, 'He should be sorry if it were otherwise.'" It may be then, and I think it is that God has lifted up these men above themselves, and stirred the kingdom by their means to stain the pride of all glory and to bring into contempt the great ones of the earth, and to demonstrate that, in order to save souls by thousands, He can do without titles, costumes or learning and even without a 'liberal education.' And I could not help being struck with the fact when I was in London, that at the very time when the Archbishop of Canterbury was praying over the ironclad "Alexandra," before she was launched, Mr Moody was preaching Christ to thousands in the metropolis, while a few days afterwards the Princess Alexandra herself came to listen to him in one of the boxes in the Royal Opera.

Moreover, I judge that apart from Messrs. Moody and Sankey altogether, there has been, by the secret working of God's Spirit, an undercurrent of preparation throughout the kingdom -- a general expectation amongst Christians and others of a religious awakening, though none ever dreamed that this awakening would be brought about by the efforts of two Americans, the one a preacher and the other a singer with an organ, and both without pretence of art, science, or literature. Just so it is; that the excellency of the power may be of God and not of men.

By Rev A A Rees, the minister of this church.

"Signs of our Times," May 5th and 12th, 1875.

Since my last we have had a good work going on. On Thursday evening, July 31st, we had a very large meeting in Bethesda Chapel. Brother Moody, was as usual, very earnest in dealing with souls. At the after-meeting, many were induced to retire to the vestries and again souls were there born of God. On Friday evening, we had a full chapel at Ebenezer. Much prayer was offered up afterwards, and though not a large number went into the vestry, some of them found peace.

On Sunday, August 3rd, our beloved brother Moody addressed the young men of Sunderland generally, and especially those belonging to the Young Men's Christian Association. In the afternoon, a large number of young men came, and Mr Moody seemed carried away by his enthusiasm for young men. It was a most powerful and telling address, and our beloved brother Sankey concluded with some of his touching singing and music. This special address has brought out many young men, some of whom have already found Jesus, and have devoted themselves for life to Him, while others who attended are still seeking the Saviour,

In the evening of Sunday, the Victoria Hall was crowded by upwards of 3,000 souls. Mr Moody again preached with great power from the text; "I pray thee, have me excused," completely demolishing any excuse for refusing the invitation to the marriage feast. The address was characterised as usual by the tenderest sympathy and compassion for sinners. At the close Mr Sankey gave, "O prodigal child, come home," and "Almost persuaded", which are very persuasive in deepening the convictions and desires of souls to be saved. At the after-meeting at Bethesda Chapel, 600 to 700 persons came together. The vestries were filled with anxious souls, and again many found the Lord.

During the present week meetings (quite unsectarian, as announced) have been held in the Victoria Hall; a large number have attended, and at the after-meetings, some have on each occasion been saved by the blood. On Friday, an all-day meeting has been announced, of which I shall (D.V.) give you some account next week. Sunday, August 10, is expected to be their last day here, as they have many invitations to labour. The noon-day prayer meeting has been a power for good, there having been so many answers to prayers offered there. 

"The Christian", August 14th 1873.

The following letter from Mr Arthur A. Rees, the well-known minister of Bethesda Chapel, Sunderland, appears in the Sunderland Herald:-

"Dear Sir, -- Allow me, as a pastor of many years standing and of very varied experience, to express my views of the character and labours of Messrs. Moody and Sankey, of America, now in this borough. Having met the former at Dublin, I soon discerned that he was a coin of the true ring, and being informed that he was preaching in the north, I invited him and his colleague to our own town. After the labours of three weeks, in various chapels and in the Victoria Hall - during which there have been services every night, save Saturdays, at nearly all of which I have been present as a fellow-worker I have arrived at the following conclusions:-

1. Both these brethren are genuine to the backbone.

2. They are as disinterested as they are zealous, and their zeal is extraordinary.
3. Mr Moody is the "Mercurius' of the pair. Mr Sankey is not the 'Jupiter,' but the Orphus. The former is not eloquent, but very fluent; not poetical or rhetorical, but he never talks twaddle and seldom utters a sentence that is not well worth hearing. He is a rapid, too rapid, speaker. Nevertheless, what he does say is sensible, forcible and to the point, and not too long, which is a great advantage. He is American to the core, in speech, intonation, and vigour. His anecdotes are superabundant, and, for the most part, the acquisitions of his own experience. They are always apt, often most pathetic, and sometimes appalling. His earnestness is intense, his energy untiring, his courage leonine, his tact uncommon, and his love for souls most tender.

"At the commencement and close of Mr Moody's addresses, Mr Sankey sings appropriate sacred solos, the congregation often taking up the 'refrain' - a novelty which to hear of is startling to the red tapists of religion, but which to hear at once commanded solemnity, acquiescence, and gratification. Nothing can be further from 'performance' than his performance. The man and the music disappear in the sentiment. The sound enforces the sense, but does not supersede it -every word and every syllable are distinctly uttered and distinctly heard. He sings the gospel with persuasive effect, throwing his whole soul, not into the accompaniment, but into the song, the sentiment of which lights up his face, not with the glitter of art, but with the glory of unfeigned sympathy.

As to results, it is too soon to speak of them, but if the continuance of vast crowds, night after night, rapt attention both to the speaker and the singer; if large after-meetings, the remaining behind of many inquirers, and the profession of not a few that they have found 'peace with God;' if these are true promises of lasting good, then the labours of Messre. Moody and Sankey in Sunderland have not been in vain in the Lord. -Yours truly,"
Sunderland, Aug. 8, 1873,

"The Christian", 21st August 1873.



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