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LIVES AND LABO URS.
The Press on the Religious Movement
DURING the past eighteen months Great Britain and Ireland have been the scene of a great religious work which has had no parallel since the time when John Wesley and George Whitefield went forth to preach the Gospel, and “added to the church daily such as should be saved.” The names Moody and Sankey are now familiar to the inhabitants of nearly all the great towns of the United Kingdom, and are associated with the results of one of the most remarkable developments of spiritual influence of modern times.
These American evangelists, so simple in their method of appealing to the human conscience and preaching the Gospel of salvation, are now in London. Already thousands upon thousands of all classes of society, the rich and cultivated, the poor and uninstructed, have listened to the earnest, homely force, the natural, untrained eloquence, the apt illustrations, the direct appeals of Mr. Mooiy, and the strong, sweet singing of Mr. Sankey, and already thousands are inquiring how they can attain peace and joy in believing; and thousands more, we can scarcely doubt, have attained it by the means of these energetic and faithful servants of their Master.
Were there no higher considerations to direct our attention towards these remarkable men, it would be nearly sufficient to know that for many months they have, almost daily, attracted immense congregations in some of the busiest towns in the world, towns where there is generally little time to spare for anything beyond the pursuits of active life, and where the inducements to
spend the few hours of leisure the week affords, are numerous and strong. It is looked upon as a remarkable fact, when a politician of distinguished reputation and possessed of extraordinary eloquence once or twice a year attracts a gathering of ten thousand people to listen to his oratory ; but how much more remarkable would it be if, day after day, and week after week, he drew similar numbers together, and if, removing from the town where he had local and special influence to other great towns, he there found the largest available buildings too small to contain one-half of those who were anxious to hear him. All this would be wonderful; and we might be disposed to envy, while we admired, the transcendent genius of the orator who could exercise such an influence. But we could scarcely expect that even the greatest of our public men, the most accomplished of our orators, who by natural gifts, aided by long practice and cultivation, possesses the power of appealing in the most forcible manner to the reason and the feelings of his countrymen, could be so continuously successful, unless some great events had prepared the public for the exercise of his gifts. In the
presence of a great national danger or calamity, in the event of some general uprising against real or imagined oppression or tyranny, in the face of circumstances which deeply moved the sympathies and feelings of the community, a Kossuth or O'Connell might maintain for months an excitement; an Antony might “move the stones of Rome to mutiny;" or a Bright might daily plead for daily bread. History affords many examples of such power; but history, as well, records other events more wonderful, and not so easily to be explained by ordinary reason and experience. We know how, in the last century, John Wesley and George Whitefield preached to rough miners and town mobs; how strong men wept like little children when, for the first time, they kuew that they had souls as well as bodies, and were dazzled for a moment by the excess of light that shone into their hearts; and we know that Wesley and Whitefield were sowing seed which, like the mustardBeed of the parable, grew up to be a great tree, in the branches of which the birds of the air lodged. Wesley preached at first wherever he could find people to listen to him ; now the descendants of his followers, subdivided into different associations, possess 9000 places of worship in England and Wales. It was not transient excitement which Wesley and Whitefield excited, but
they laid the foundation of religious teaching to which, in the United Kingdom, nearly 4000 regular ministers and 31,000 local preachers devote themselves. There are about 650,000 regular church members, and more than a million and a quarter children taught in the Sunday schools belonging to the various Methodist associations. What a power must there have been in their preaching! Their hearers, whose changed life made a moral revolution in the country, did not come to listen to them because they wanted an eloquent mouthpiece to express their determination, or give shape to some powerful protest. They did not know they were spiritually suffering until they were told by the preachers that they were. Thuy came, some idle and listless, asking " What is this new thing?" and they felt that the new thing was a consciousness of life eternal, and that they had souls to be saved; some came to scoff, and remained to pray, and the earnest exhortation of Wesley, the powerful oratory of Whitefield, were the means of achieving a resultfounding an edifice daily increasing in extent and vigour—which the most polished scholastic oratory, the most carefully polished eloquence, enlivened by all the graces of rhetoric, would have been utterly powerless to achieve.
Moody is not, in the educational sense, a man of high cultivation; as a mere speaker, he is not equal to Joseph Arch, and some others who have great influence over vigorous and somewhat rough natures. He is very rapid, has little power of modulating his voice, is indiscriminate in his emphasis, careless as to grammar and pronunciation, but apparently anxious to drive every word home; and no doubt the habit of speaking in very large buildings and in the open air to immense assemblies of people has made him acquire a mode of loud and over-emphatic speaking not consistent with correct elocution and a graceful delivery. He is not so dramatic in style as Gough, the temperance orator; but in the short time he has been in this country he has done what no other, since the time we have spoken of, has achieved. In the towns where he has spoken, he has had tens of thousands of hearers, and thousands of converts who have “put off the old man and put on the new," have died to sin and been born again to peace and joy in believing. Mr. Moody expressiy disavows any claim to be considered a great preacher in a literary or oratorical sense. Ile would, we are sure, be the first to say, “Not unto us, O Lord, not upto us, but unto Thy name give