I’ve been briefly looking at D. L. Moody’s experience during the Civil War using a book called A Passion for Souls: The Life of D. L. Moody by Lyle Dorsett. During the war, Moody decided not to become a regimental chaplain so that he could move freely amongst a larger number of troops and minister to them. He succeeded as he worked tirelessly at Camp Douglas in Chicago conducting prayer meetings and ministry for both Union Soldiers and Confederate POWs, even helping to raise funds to build a chapel there. Moody also took trips to Cairo, IL, a major launching point for Union troops under General U. S. Grant. His most somber experiences came when he made a number of trips to the front lines, ministering to many wounded and dying Soldiers. Near the battlefield of Pittsburgh Landing, the evangelist recalled a Soldier in a hospital bed:
“…he wanted me to help him die. And I said, ‘I would take you right up in my arms and carry you into the Kingdom of God, if I could; but I cannot do it. I cannot help you die!’ And he said, ‘Who can?’ I said, ‘The Lord Jesus Christ can – He came for that purpose.’ He shook his head, and said: ‘He cannot save me; I have sinned all my life.’ And I said, ‘But He came to save sinners.'”
As Moody turned to the Gospel of John and began to read, the Soldier “caught up with the words, ‘As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.’ He stopped. He asked me to read it again, and I did so.”
After the third reading, a change came over the Soldier and his face lit up. The Soldier himself repeated the verse in a faint whisper… “He opened his eyes and said: ‘that’s enough’ don’t read any more.’ He lingered a few hours, pillowing his head on those two verses; and then went up in one of Christ’s chariots, to take his seat in the kingdom of God.” (Dorsett, 98)
As the early enlistment hype slumped into the harsh realities of war, Moody worked tirelessly to share the good news of Jesus Christ. Moody’s ministry on and off the battlefield should encourage us to think outside the box, recognize moments of opportunity to share God’s grace, and not be afraid to give up creature comforts for the sake of the Kingdom.