The Life and Work of D.L. Moody: Chapter 20 - His Bible
A Book More Than Precious to Him - The Advice of Harry Moorehouse - Mr. Moody's Ideas Concerning the Way to Use God's Word.
Mr. MOODY loved his Bible. He knew it so well that his eyes and fingers could find any passage that he wanted from Genesis to Revelation, and it mattered not how hurriedly he was speaking, it was as easy for him to find the text he wished as for the master musician to find the notes on the keyboard of a piano, and yet, he tells us himself that, when he first entered the Sunday-school class in Boston, he did not know the difference between the Old Testament and the New.
MORE THAN PRECIOUS TO HIM
The Bible as a book was more than precious to him. His own Bible was a storehouse of richest treasure. He was never heard even by his closest friends to make a play on Bible words and phrases, and he was always quick to rebuke those who did. He really had no patience at all with the so-called higher criticism of God's word. He was one day approached by a newspaper reporter who asked for some word from him regarding the higher criticism. "I'm not up to that sort of thing," he said, with a twinkle in his eye. "You see, I never studied theology, and I'm precious glad I didn't. There are so many things in the Bible that everybody can understand that I'm going to preach about them until they are exhausted, and then, if I have any time left, I'll take up the texts I don't understand." "Aren't you ever asked to discuss difficult passages of Scripture?" was the inquiry. "Mercy, yes" answered Mr. Moody, "almost every day, but I always answer people just as I have answered you, and tell them that there is satisfaction and consolation enough in the promises of the Savior, all that anybody can want. The single verse, 'Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest,' contains all the theology and religion that I need, or any other man or woman.
The page taken from the Bible he studied, and giving us a picture of his notes made on the ninety-first Psalm, is but an illustration of the entire book. Almost every page contained an illustration or reference to an incident which shed light upon the truth of God:
A VALUABLE ADVICE
Years ago Harry Moorehouse, the English Bible reader, said to him while visiting his church in Chicago, "If you will stop preaching your own words and preach God's Word, you will make yourself a great power for good." This prophecy made a deep impression on Mr. Moody's mind, and from that day he devoted himself to the study of the Bible as he had never done before. He had been accustomed to draw his sermons from the experiences of Christians and the life of the streets, now he began to follow the counsel of his friend, and preach the Word.
His first series of sermons on characters of the Bible was preached during the summer before the Chicago fire, and at once attracted great attention. He also began to compare Scripture with Scripture. " If I don't understand a text," said his friend Moorehouse, " I ask another text to explain it, and then, if it is too hard for me, I take it to the Lord and ask Him to explain it for me. This method Mr. Moody adopted, and this was one of the secrets of his power. He was mighty in the Scriptures, and spoke as with. authority from God.
He had a large library at his house at Northfield, much of which had been presented to him by admiring friends; but it is safe to say that there are not half a dozen books in the world, besides the books of the Old and New Testaments, of which he could give the names and a general outline of their contents; hence there was room in his head for God's Word, and with it he kept himself continually full and running over. His method of Bible study was like the method of a humming bird studying a clover blossom. From the cells of sweetness down into which he thrust his questions and his prayers, he brought up the honey which God has stored away; he reveled in the profusion and preciousness of the promises, like a robin in a tree full of ripe cherries. It was enjoyable just to see how heartily he enjoyed the Word of God, and almost convincing to see with what absolute faith he clung to it for his own salvation, and with what absolute assurance he urged others to do the same. To Mr. Moody the Word of God was food, drink, lodging, and clothes; he climbed by it toward Heaven, as a sailor climbs the rigging; it was an anchor to hold him; a gale to drive him; it was health, hope, happiness, eternal life.
COMMENTS ON HOPE AND FAITH
It was by his loving, prayerful, trustful study of the Scriptures that he had acquired his skill as a practical commentator. Take, as a specimen of his off-hand comments, this from one of the Bible readings on Hope: "Hope is the anchor of the soul. Now none of you ever saw an anchor but was used to hold something down. It goes down to the bottom of the sea, and takes hold of the ground, and holds the ship to it. But this anchor, this hope, is to hold us up: it enters within the veil; it takes hold of the throne of God."
On the text, "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God," he said: "A great many people are mourning their want of faith; but there is no wonder that they haven't any faith; they don't study the Word of God 'How do you suppose you are to have faith in God when you don't know anything about Him? It is those who haven't any acquaintance with God that stumble and fall; but those who know Him can trust Him and lean heavy on His arm. If a man would rather read the Sunday newspapers than read God's Word, I don't see how Christ is going to save him. There is no room in him for the Gospel when he has filled himself with the newspapers. For years I have not touched a Sunday newspaper, or a weekly religious paper either, on Sunday. Some people lay aside those religious papers for Sunday reading, but that is not a good way. Let us lay aside all other reading for one day in the week, and devote ourselves to the study of God's Word. But you say, 'O, we must study science and literature, and such things, in order to understand the Bible.' What can a botanist tell you about the 'Rose of Sharon' and the 'Lily of the Valley'? What can the geologist tell you about the 'Rock of Ages'? What can the astronomer tell you about the 'Bright and Morning Star'?
GET RID OF DOUBTS
"A good many people are asking, 'Will this work hold out?' Now I am not a prophet, nor the son of a prophet, but there is one thing I can predict, and that is, that every one of these young converts who studies his Bible till he learns to love it better than anything else, will be sure to hold out; the world will have no charms for him. What all these young converts want is to be in love with the Word of God; to feed upon it till it comes to be sweeter than honey and the honeycomb.
"One day when my old employer, C. N. Henderson, was sending me out to make some collections, he gave me some notes on which he had made some private marks. Some were marked 'B'. bad, and I was to get anything I could for them. Others were marked 'D', doubtful; I was to get all the security I could. And others were marked 'G', good, and these I was to treat accordingly. Now people take God's notes or promises, and some of them they mark 'B', because they don't believe in them; others they mark 'D', because they don't feel sure of them; but if there happens to be one which has been fulfilled to themselves, that one they mark 'G'.
"Now that isn't the way to treat God's promises. You ought to mark every one of them G--O--O--D, good. Heaven and earth shall pass away before any one of them shall fail. If we could only get these Christians out of Doubting Castle, how rich they would be, and what a work of grace there might be. O, these Devils, Ifs! When shall we ever get rid of them?"
Mr. Moody's Bible was a real storehouse of treasure. Every page of it was marked - almost every verse had some special illustration connected with it, so that he had only to open the book to have a perfect flood of light upon its pages. It was for this reason that he was always helpful and always interesting.
The following is one of his most characteristic statements, and really was the beginning of my marking my own Bible. He always practiced what he preached, and he advised other people to mark their Bibles because it had been such a blessing to him:
"When the preacher gives out a text, mark it; as he goes on preaching, put a few words in the margin, key-words that shall bring back the whole sermon again. By that plan of making a few marginal notes, I can remember sermons I heard years and years ago. Every man ought to take down some of the preacher's words and ideas, and go into some lane or byway, and preach them again to others. We ought to have four ears - two for ourselves and two for other people. Then, if you are in a new town, and have nothing else to say, jump up and say: 'I heard some one say so and so;' and men will always be glad to hear you if you give them heavenly food. The world is perishing for lack of it."
He had many references to the twenty-third Psalm; this is one of the best. "I suppose I have heard as many good sermons on the twenty-third Psalm as on any other six verses in the Bible. I wish I had begun to take notes upon them years ago when I heard the first one. Things slip away from you when you get to be fifty years of age.
"With me, the Lord. "Beneath me, green pastures. "Beside me, still waters. "Before me, a table. "Around me, mine enemies. "After me, goodness and mercy. "Ahead of me, the house of the Lord."
Blessed is the day,' says an old divine, 'when Psalm twenty-three was born!' It has been more used than almost any other passage in the Bible.'
Mr. Moody was never more interesting, than when giving his Bible readings. He could hold his great audiences spellbound with his plain, practical, and yet powerful interpretations of the Scripture. He had no use at all for the so-called higher criticism. At one of the last conferences held in New York, he said to a company of ministers:
"I don't see why you men are talking about 'two Isaiah's half the people in the country do not know that there is one Isaiah yet; let's make them know about one, before we begin to tell them about two."
The last conversation of any length, that I had with him, he must have talked for half an hour, concerning his absolute confidence in the Bible and his growing love for it.