Running away from the God of love

Harry Moorehouse was an English evangelist known as “the Boy Preacher” on account of his youthful looks.  Moody wasn’t particularly keen, but Moorehouse invited himself to Moody’s church in Chicago to preach.

Moorehouse was to have a massive impact on Moody’s preaching, but Moody wasn’t even present for his first sermon.  However his wife, Emma, was.

The following is an extract from the biography D.L. Moody by William R. Moody:

“When I got back Saturday morning I was anxious, to know how he got on. The first thing I said to my wife, when I got into the house, was, ‘How is the young Englishman coming along? How do the people like him?’

“’They like him very much.’ ‘

“’Did you hear him’?’

“‘Yes.”

“’Well, did you like him?’

“’Yes, I liked him very much. He has preached two sermons from that verse of John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life,” and I think you will like him, although he preaches a little differently from you.’

“’How is that?’

“’Well, he tells the worst sinners that God loves them.’

“’Then,’ said I, ‘HE IS WRONG.’

“’I think you will agree with him when you hear him,’ said she, ‘because he backs up everything he says with the Bible.’

“Sunday came, and as I went to the church I noticed that everyone brought a Bible. The morning address was to Christians. I had never heard anything quite like it. He gave chapter and verse to prove every statement he made. When night came the church was packed. ‘Now, beloved friends,’ said the preacher, ‘if you will turn to the third chapter of John and the sixteenth verse, you will find my text.’ He preached the most extraordinary sermon from that verse. He did not divide the text into ‘ secondly’ and ‘ thirdly’ and ‘ fourthly’; he just took the whole verse, and then went through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation to prove that in all ages God loved the world. God had sent prophets and patriarchs and holy men to warn us, and then He sent His Son, and after they killed Him, He sent the Holy Ghost. I never knew up to that time that God loved us so much. This heart of mine began to thaw out; I could not keep back the tears. It was like news from a far country; I just drank it in. So did the crowded congregation.

I tell you there is one thing that draws above everything else in this world, and that is love. A man that has no one to love him, no mother, no wife, no children, no brother, no sister, belongs to the class that commits suicide.

“It’s pretty hard to get a crowd out in Chicago on a Monday night, but the people came. They brought their Bibles, and Moorhouse began, ‘Beloved friends, if you will turn to the third chapter of John and the sixteenth verse, you will find my text, and again he showed on another line from Genesis to Revelation, that God loved us. He could turn to almost any part of the Bible and prove this great fact. Well, I thought that was better than the other one; he struck a higher note than ever, and it was sweet to my soul to hear it.

He just beat that truth down into my heart, and I have never doubted it since. I used to preach that God was behind the sinner with a double-edged sword ready to hew him down. I have done with that. I preach now that God is behind him with love, and he is running away from the God of love.

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Posted on by Glen in Doctrine of God, evangelism, pastoral theology, preaching

About Glen

I’m a preacher in Eastbourne, married to Emma.

0 Responses to Running away from the God of love

  1. Otepoti

    I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
    I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
    I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
    Of my own mind, etc. etc.

    – sorta thing?

  2. John B

    It’s very interesting to read about Moody’s connection with Moorehouse. The influence of John Nelson Darby was indirect in America, and mediated by Moody and other evangelical leaders, such that today dispensationalism is the majority view here. As Moorehouse was Plymouth Brethren, I wonder if he also influenced Moody’s thinking in this regard.

    Moody is the most well-regarded figure in the revivalist movement. He took the edge off of Finney’s “anxious seat” by turning it into the “inquiry room”. But still more earnest than the “sawdust trail” of Billy Sunday that followed later.

    But Moody was more low church than even the Brethren. For him the church was the Y.M.C.A., cut off from history and corporate theology. Moody promoted the modern Protestant understanding of Christian faith as solely an affair of the heart, separated entirely from sacramental means and seals.

  3. Dave K

    I recently heard an MP3 of Ed Clowney referring to Jim Packer saying that you can either drive or draw people to Christ.

    He confessed he thought he had spent his career trying to draw people to Christ, but in retrospect he should have done a little more driving.

    This quote seems to suggest you should only draw, and never drive.

    Is there a role for both? (I would say the Bible says there is – hard to read the prophets etc otherwise) If so, how do you relate the two? (I’d be genuinely interested how you would do it in conversation/sermons – I think ‘drawing’ is my default, although I’m convicted it shouldn’t always be).

  4. Heather

    My Dad tends to summarize in two statements the Lord’s message to humanity.

    1. I am God. You are not

    2. And I love you anyway.

    Which might be a bit of oversimplification, considering the consequences of rejecting God and His love…

    But it does seem to be the message that is replayed throughout scripture.

  5. Glen

    Hi Otepoti – yes the hound of heaven fits well with what Moody’s talking about I think.

    Hi John B – yes from what I’m reading that sounds a very fair assessment of Moody. He wasn’t a very discerning theologian and at times gave a platform for lots of nonsense. I’d be really interested to read more of the history of Finney revivalism etc. Any recommendations?

    Hi Dave – Moody was famous for preaching hell – but always “with tears”. I think this kind of understanding doesn’t stop you “driving” but it shapes the way you do it and how you portray the One who is driving. I’ll have to read some more Moody sermons to give you examples. For contemporary examples, Mike Reeves’ sermon on Psalm 130 on the All Souls website (I think there are two versions there – either are good) is some pretty stark evangelistic preaching on hell married to big proclamation of love and assurance to those who turn.

    Hi Heather, that word “anyway” is really interesting in your dad’s summary. I’m very happy with that description as long as the “anyway” belongs to the very essence of His being. Given the trinity of course it does! Because the Father has always loved the Other who is His Son. Loving that which is not God is the Father’s *first* nature – not second… Maybe I’ll do a post about this some time.

  6. Dave K

    That’s very helpful thanks Glen.

    I’ve listened to Mike Reeves York Uni CU talk encouraging Christians to evangelism, and he certainly preached hell in that way there.

    Hell came up in the Christianity Explored course I was leading a few weeks ago, and one of the participants felt that it shouldn’t be preached because you shouldn’t be “scared into believing”. I think we did ok at explaining that God wants us to love him and not to grudgingly come to him because the alternative is worse. So I think we answered the concern behind his point quite well (he seemed much happier), although I don’t think we directly explained why hell should be preached. That was one of those questions/challenges that you keep mulling over.

    I must confess I know next to nothing about Moody, although at the Northern Men’s Convention recently the Yorkshire Jack Lipnick said that if you haven’t read the biography by John Pollock “you should seriously doubt your salvation”!

  7. John B

    Hi Glen,

    The three titles on revivalism that I’d look into first are:

    “The Dominance of Evangelicalism: The Age of Spurgeon And Moody” by David W. Bebbington

    “Modern Revivalism: Charles Grandison Finney to Billy Graham” by William G. McLoughlin

    “Revival and Revivalism” by Iain H. Murray

    Also, there is an excellent chapter on Moody, the father of American fundamentalism, in “Fundamentalism and American Culture” by George M. Marsden, which is available on Google Books:

    http://books.google.com/books?id=k-na5zUu2DsC&lpg=PP1&pg=PA32#v=onepage&q&f=false

    While there’s quite a lot of critical treatment available about Finney, there’s far less around about Moody. He avoided doctrinal controversy to a fault and was on good terms personally with other church leaders of his day, most notably Spurgeon. But I think that the church in America can understand its history better by considering the ministry of Moody. He was a key figure in the turn to what Bonhoeffer would later describe as “Protestantism without the Reformation.”

  8. John B

    Hi Dave K,

    Like the man in your Christianity Explored course, Moody didn’t think that the subject of Hell was fit for preaching, either. Moody often tested doctrines by their suitability for evangelism. As he explained it, “Terror never brought a man in yet.”

  9. Pingback: Some tasty links from the last month «

  10. John B

    Glen,

    Just a quick follow up with a few items on Finney and revivalism that are available online:

    “Charles G. Finney and the Second Great Awakening”, PDF file at-

    http://www.biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/ref-rev/06-1/6-1_pyke.pdf

    “Charles G. Finney: How Theology Affects Understanding of Revival”

    http://www.the-highway.com/articleMar00.html

    “Charles Finney And His Critics”

    http://www.banneroftruth.org/pages/articles/article_detail.php?1071

    The last is a discussion of John Williamson Nevin, a contemporary of Finney, and his book, “The Anxious Bench”. As the article points out, this book, though written in 1843, is more “contemporvant” than it was during Nevin’s lifetime. “The Anxious Bench” is in the public domain and available on Google Books.

    It seems apt to consider revival as a topic on this, the eve of Pentecost!

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