Mr. D. L. Moody, the American Evangelist, was the great apostle of Arminianism in the nineteenth century. In 1873-74 he and Ira D. Sankey conducted a great evangelistic campaign in Scotland, in the course of which thousands professed to have believed in Christ. The Rev. John Kennedy, D.D. of Dingwall, one of the foremost evangelical leaders in Scotland in his day, wrote a review of Moody’s religious movement which he entitled ‘Hyper-Evangelism—Another Gospel, Though a Mighty Power.’ When so many who had a high position and commanding influence in the Church were declaring that it was a gracious work of God, Dr. Kennedy says that he has to confess that he is one of those to whom the movement has yielded more grief than gladness and that he feels constrained to tell why he is a mourner apart.
In forming an estimate of the doctrine that was mainly effective in advancing the movement Dr. Kennedy says that he had sufficient material at hand, that he had heard Mr. Moody repeatedly, and that he had perused with care published specimens of his addresses. His objection to Moody’s teaching was that it ignored the supreme end of the gospel which is the manifestation of the divine glory, and misrepresented it as merely unfolding a scheme of salvation adapted to men’s convenience.
This confirmed objection he based on the following considerations.
(1) That no pains were taken to present the character and claims of God as Lawgiver and Judge, and no indication given of a desire to bring souls in self-condemnation to ‘accept the punishment of their iniquity.’
(2) That it ignored the sovereignty and power of God in the dispensation of His grace.
(3) That it afforded no help to discover, in the light of the doctrine of the cross, how God is glorified in the salvation of the sinner that believes in Jesus.
(4) That it offers no precaution against tendencies to Antinomianism on the part of those who professed to believe.
“Go to the street,” said the great American evangelist, to a group of young ladies, who were seated before him, “and lay your hand on the shoulder of every drunkard you meet, and tell him that God loves him and that Christ died for him; and if you do so, I see no reason why in forty-eight hours there should be an unconverted drunkard in Edinburgh.” “This selfish earnestness,” remarks Dr. Kennedy, “this proud resolve to make a manageable business of conversion-work, is intolerant of any recognition of the sovereignty of God.”
“There is, of course,” he continues, “frequent references to the Spirit, and an acknowledgment of the necessity of His work, but there is, after all, very little allowed for Him to do; and bustling men feel and act as if somehow His power was under their control….
“True, much use is made of Christ’s substitutionary death. But it is usually referred to as a disposing of sin, so that it no longer endangers him, who believes that Christ died for him—who accepts Christ as his substitute. This use of the doctrine of substitution has been very frequent and very effective. Christ, as the substitute of sinners is declared to be the object of faith. But it is His substitution rather than Himself. To believe in substitution is what produces the peace. This serves to remove the sense of danger. There is no direct dealing with the Person who was the substitute. There is no appreciation of the merit of His sacrifice, because of the Divine glory of Him by whom it was offered. Faith, in the convenient arrangement for deliverance from danger, is substituted for trust in the Person who glorified God on the earth, and ‘in whom’ alone we can ‘have redemption through His blood.’ The blood of Jesus was referred to, and there was an oft-repeated ‘Bible-reading’ on the subject of ‘the blood’; but what approximation to any right idea regarding it could there be in the mind, and what but misleading in the teaching, of one who could say, ‘Jesus left His blood on earth to cleanse you, but He brought His flesh and bones to heaven.’
“Souls who have a vague sense of danger, excited by the sensational, instead of an intelligent conviction of sin, produced by the light and power of applied truth, are quite ready to be satisfied with such teaching as this. To these, such doctrine will bring all the peace they are anxious to obtain. But what is the value of that peace? It is no more than the quiet of a dead soul, from whom has been removed an unintelligent sense of danger.
“The new style of teaching made it seem such an easy thing to be a Christian. To find oneself easily persuaded to believe what was presented in the gospel, and to think that by this faith salvation was secured, and that all cause of anxiety was for ever gone, gave a new and pleasing sensation, which thousands were willing to share.”
In connection with unscriptural devices resorted to in order to advance the movement, Dr. Kennedy mentions first excessive hymn-singing as one of these. “The singing of uninspired hymns even in moderation, as part of public worship, no one can prove to be scriptural; but the excess and the misdirection of the singing in this movement were irrational as well. Singing ought to be to the Lord; for singing is worship. But singing the gospel to men has taken the place of singing praise to God…. Many professed to have been converted by the hymns.
“The use of instrumental music was an additional novelty, pleasing to the kind of feeling that finds pleasure in a concert. To introduce what is so gratifying there, into the service of the house of God, is to make the latter palatable to those to whom spiritual worship is an offence. The organ-sounds effectively touch chords which nothing else would thrill….
“And yet it is not difficult to prove that the use of instrumental music, in the worship of God, is unscriptural, and that therefore all, who have subscribed to the [Westminster] Confession of Faith, are under solemn vow against it. There was a thorough change, in the mode of worship, effected by the revolution, which introduced the New Testament dispensation. So thorough is this change, that no part of the old ritual can be a precedent to us. For all parts of the service of the house of God there must be New Testament precept or example. No one will pretend that for instrumental music, in the worship of God, there is any authority in New Testament Scripture. ‘The fruit of the lips’ issuing from hearts that make ‘melody to the Lord,’ is the only form of praise it sanctions….
“But we use the organ only as an aid, it is said. ‘It is right that we should do our best in serving the Lord; and if the vocal music is improved by the instrumental accompaniment, then surely the organ may be used.’ On the same ground you might argue for the use of crucifixes and pictures, and for all the paraphernalia of the Popish ritual. ‘These,’ you might say, ‘make an impression on minds that would not otherwise be at all affected. They vividly present before worshippers the scenes described in Scripture, and if, as aids, they serve to do so, they surely cannot be wrong.’
To this, there are three replies, equally good against the argument for instrumental music.
(1) they are not prescribed in New Testament Scripture, and therefore they must not be introduced into New Testament worship.
(2) They are incongruous with the spirituality of the New Testament dispensation.
(3) These additions but help to excite a state of feeling which militates against, instead of aiding, that which is produced by the Word. An organ may make an impression, but what is it but such as may be made more thoroughly at the opera? It may help to regulate the singing, but does God require this improvement? And whence arises the taste for it? It cannot be from the desire to make the praise more fervent and spiritual, for it only tends to take attention away from the heart, whose melody the Lord requires. It is the craving for pleasurable aesthetics, for the gratification of mere carnal feeling, that desires the thrill of organ sounds, to touch pleasingly the heart, that yields no response to what is spiritual. If the argument, against the use of the organ, in the service of praise, is good, it is, at least equally so against its use in the service of preaching. If anything did ‘vanish away,’ it is surely the use of all such accessories in connection with the exhibition of Christ to men. [Hebrews 8.]
“The novelty of the ‘inquiry room’ was another effective aid in advancing the movement. It is declared to be desirable to come into close personal contact with the hearers of the gospel immediately after a sermon, in order to ascertain their state of feeling, to deepen impressions, that may have been made, and to give a helping hand to the anxious. Such is the plea for ‘the inquiry room.’ In order that it may be supplied, hearers are strongly urged, after a sensational address, to take the position of converts or inquirers. They are pressed and hurried to a public confession….
“Why are men so anxious to keep the awakened in their own hands? They, at any rate, seem to act as if conversion was all their own work. They began it, and they seem determined to finish it. If it is at all out of their hand, they seem to think that it will come to nothing. They must at once, and on the spot, get these inquirers persuaded to believe, and get them also to say that they do. They may fall to pieces if they are not braced round by a band of profession. Their names or numbers must, ere the night passes, be added to the roll of converts. They are gathered into the inquiry room, to act in a scene, that looks more like a part of a stage-play than anything more serious and solemn. Oh, what trifling with souls goes on in these inquiry rooms, as class after class is dealt with in rude haste, very often by teachers who never ‘knew the grace of God in truth.’ The inquiry room may be effective in securing a hasty profession of faith, but it is not an institution which the Church of Christ should adopt or countenance.
“It will be a sad day,” concludes Dr. Kennedy, “for our country, if the men, who luxuriate in the excitement of man-made revivals, shall with their one-sided views of truth, which have ever been the germs of serious errors, their lack of spiritual discernment, and their superficial experience, become the leaders of religious thought, and the conductors of religious movements. Already they have advanced as many as inclined to follow them, far in the way to Arminianism in doctrine, and to Plymouthism in service. They may be successful in galvanising, by a succession of sensational shocks a multitude of dead, till they seem to be alive, and they raise them from their crypts to take a place amidst the living in the house of the Lord; but far better would it be to leave the dead in the place of the dead, and to prophesy to them there, till the living God Himself shall quicken them. For death will soon resume its sway. Stillness will follow the temporary bustle, and the quiet will be more painful than the stir. But to whatever extent this may be realized in the future of the Church in Scotland, our country will yet share, in common with all lands, in the great spiritual resurrection that will be the morning work of that day of glory, during which ‘the knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth,’ and ‘all nations shall be blessed in Messiah, and shall call Him blessed.’ Meantime, were it not for the hope of this, it would be impossible to endure to think of the present, and of the immediate future, of the cause of true religion in our land. The dead, oh, how dead! The living, oh, how undiscerning! And if there continue to be progress in the direction, in which present religious activity is moving, a negative theology will soon supplant our Confession of Faith, the good old ways of worship will be forsaken for unscriptural inventions, and the tinsel of a superficial religiousness will take the place of genuine godliness.”