On December 23, 1899, newspapers across North America were filled with stories of a man whose death the day before marked the end of an era in American Christianity. Lay evangelist Dwight L. Moody had for a quarter of a century stirred audiences of thousands on both sides of the Atlantic. Life had hardly left his huge frame before publishers were feverishly vying for biographies of the man who was eulogized as "the great evangelist of the nineteenth century" and even the "world's greatest evangelist." Fourteen biographies appeared within twelve months of his death!Within a very few years eulogy turned into controversy as various persons and institutions claimed to be the heirs to Moody's mantle. An interesting sidelight of the modernist-fundamentalist debate in the 1920s can be partially traced in the pages of the Christian Century and the Moody Bible Institute Monthly as they debated whether Moody's sympathies would have been with the modernists or the fundamentalists.
From our perspective, both the eulogies and the controversies seem to be uncritical and overdrawn, but his should not obscure the significance that Moody had for both British and American Christianity in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Indeed, historians have recently begun to take another look at the man who Martin E. Marty has said "could plausibly have been called Mr. Revivalist and perhaps even Mr. Protestant" at a critical stage in American religious history. Having spent three years in detailed research in the life and sermons of D. L. Moody, I have not only been impressed with his significance for his own time but have also seen that certain themes emphasized and exemplified in his ministry need very much to be reiterated today. (Most of ...1
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