J.K. Popham (1847-1837)

I am bound to say I am opposed to the religious movement of which Messrs, Moody and Sankey are the leaders. I am opposed to it because I fail to see what Mr. Moody so confidently asserted at Birmingham – that the present work is God’s. Every religious movement must be judged more by its doctrines than by what we usually see paraded – results. The teachings of its leaders must be brought to God’s word, and tested by it. “To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” [Isa 8:20]

If God were in this movement, would not the teachings of its leaders be in accordance with the word of truth? But where are the cardinal doctrines of the Bible to be found in their teachings? Are they not either ignored or pushed aside to make way for their PET notion of “sudden conversion?”

Where, in all Mr. Moody’s preaching, do we find any declaration of the doctrine of eternal election, that decree of the eternal God which secures some men from everlasting woe? And, yet, this is one of the great doctrines of the Bible. Rom. ix. 11, xi. 5, 7. Eph. i. 4, 11. 1 Thess. i. 4. 1 Peter I. 2, and, indeed, throughout the whole of the scriptures it is seen as a clear and beautiful light. But such a doctrine as this, which takes salvation out of the hands of man, and places it in the hands of Omnipotence and of sovereign grace, would not suit these man-made revivals, for, then, Mr. Moody would not have, as at Birmingham, four thousand “converts” to exhibit.

If Mr. Moody had received the doctrine of election into his heart in the love of it, he could not, I repeat, have used the above expressions. But, it may be objected, to preach the doctrine of election to such congregations as Messrs. Moody and Sankey preach and sing to, would be altogether out of place—that it might be abused—that it would drive the majority of hearers away. I reply, that the Lord Jesus of whose meekness we bear so much, opened his ministry in Nazareth by proclaiming this truth, and could only save His life by a miracle, because of the enmity His preaching stirred up in the minds of His hearers—that he told the Pharisees over and over again that they were not His sheep, that that was the cause of their not believing in Him. And shall we censure the lips of truth and wisdom by saying such a doctrine ought not to be preached? “But,” one may say again, “the times are so much altered,” true, but is the gospel? Are its doctrines less true, less imperative, less profitable?

All scripture is profitable for doctrine, then is the doctrine of free, UNCONDITIONAL election profitable? For it humbles proud nature, it declares that all men are aliens from God, and that He will dispense His mercy in a sovereign manner, freely, and, WHERE and WHEN He will. “For He saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.” Rom. ix. 15, 16. But Mr. Moody cannot bear this doctrine, for the glorious blaze of it would put out his sparks and leave him in darkness.

Taking for his text John 3: 3 Mr. Moody remarked that “Regeneration was coming to Christ as a poor, lost, ruined sinner, and taking life from Him.” What is this! A DEAD soul WALKING to Christ for life! The ACT and MOTION of life the cause of that life! No mention of the eternal and ever blessed Spirit’s gracious work on the soul, no; but the dead sinner’s ceasing from certain specified work, and commencing another, or rather others, “coming and taking.” Regeneration, then, is a dead soul, performing the most active functions of life! Truly this is strange blindness. Had this teacher ever been under the teaching of the Holy Spirit, whose divine person and work he ignored, while preaching a subject which especially sets forth that person and that work, he would have known that in regeneration the soul is passive. “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth.” James i. 18. “Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man but of God.” John 1: 13

As men contribute nothing to their first birth, so neither to the second; as no man generates himself, so neither can he regenerate himself; as an infant is passive in its natural generation, and has no concern in it; so passive is a man in his spiritual generation, and is no more assisting in it. It is a maxim that will hold good, “nil dat quod non habet” (nothing can give that which it has not).” [Dr. Gill] This is the teaching of the scripture, but the teaching of this “Evangelist” is totally different. According to Mr. Moody there is no need of the astonishing grace and power promised in Ez. xxxvii. 12, 13, for all that is required to regenerate is within the dead sinner’s power—it is ceasing from one work and commencing another! Dr. Kennedy, in his very able tract, “Hyper-evangelism, another gospel, though a mighty power,” written against this same movement in Scotland, says on page 16, “After some strong sayings about the necessity of regeneration, in one of the leader’s addresses, the question was put, “How is this change to be attained?” And the speaker answered the question by saying, “You believe, and then you are regenerated,” and in confirmation he referred to John i. 12, forgetting the verse which follows. Ah! but would not the recollection of that most important verse have been fatal to this anti-scriptural theory of “regeneration by faith?” for it takes conversion out of the meddling hands of man, and exposes the hollowness of the question “Now, who will take the gift this night?” and thus be regenerated!


In the next place I find Mr. Moody’s teachings respecting sin are lamentably defective. To be sure he speaks of sin, and tells his hearers that they must “come to Christ as poor, lost, ruined sinners.” But this is nullified by what is said about sin elsewhere. “My wife,” he said at one meeting, “has a little boy, who, on one occasion, got possession of a pair of scissors. His sister tried to get them from him, but failed. She then got an orange, which she held before the little fellow, he dropped the scissors for the orange; he got something better. And so it is with the gospel. You give up your sins, and in Christ you find that which is infinitely better.”

An illustration should bear some proportion of truth and fitness to the thing to be illustrated. It is not so in this ease. Sin is not spoken of, in the Bible, as something extraneous, belonging to an entirely different substance from the sinner. It is plainly declared to be a component part of his nature. “The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” Rom. viii. 7. “The old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts.” Eph. iv. 22. “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.” Ephesians ii. 1. “But I am carnal, sold under sin.” Rom. vii. 14. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Jer. xvii. 9. “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Ps. li. 5.

If Mr. Moody had felt the guilt and power of sin in his own conscience, and known what an evil thing and bitter it is to sin against God, he could not talk so lightly of it.

It is not true that a person can give up his sins, and take Christ, as the child the scissors. Can he drop his carnal mind? “Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led.” “Hurried with violent impressions from the devil, into the service of idols.” [Dr. Owen’s paraphrase] Therefore, “no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.”

It is a mournful thing that any person should profess to be a teacher of religion who manifests the grossest, the most entire ignorance of the very rudiments of Christianity. And still more and that thousands should have to listen to such a teacher. But they love to have it so. The one comes with a cry of “Peace,” the others say “Prophesy smooth things.” But, without doubt, God is greatly dishonoured by such teaching, and He will say to all false teachers “Who hath required this at your hands?”


It is truly awful to see the dishonour done to Christ by the preaching and singing of these “Evangelists.” Where are the scripture evidences that Christ is knocking, and “has knocked many times already,” at the heart of every person to whom Messrs. Moody and Sankey may speak or sing? If He desires to dwell in this or that particular heart, what shall hinder?

Mr. Moody is singularly unfortunate in his illustrations, or rather they are remarkably unscriptural. He tells us, “A woman in Glasgow got into difficulties. Her rent was due, but she had no money for the landlord. A Christian man hearing of her trouble went to her house with the kind intention of helping her. He knocked at her door, but in vain; there was no door opened. He had to return without completing his mission. Learning afterwards who it was that knocked at her door she exclaimed, “Why, I thought it was the landlord, and I was afraid to open the door!” Then follows the application, concluding with the remark, “And, now, He comes! bringing the gift of salvation to the door of your hearts. Will you receive the gift?”

Here is the unfitness of the application, the poor woman did not know the knock of the gentleman who went with help; but Christ says “My sheep hear My voice,” and it is indeed a mighty and sweet voice. John x. 27, see also Psalm xxix, 4. Here is the untruthfulness of it,—that Christ will go away from any heart to which He approaches. If He comes, it is with a fixed purpose, and He will not repent of that, it is INDEED with a gift, and that He will not repent of. Num. xxiii, 19. Rom. xi, 29. Besides, if He comes to a dead sinner it is not to ASK him to OPEN his heart, but to breathe life into the soul. “The hour is coming and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live.” John v. 25. Neither does He come to a living, burdened, guilty, ready-to-perish soul, to OFFER pardon, but TO PARDON ACTUALLY, and remove the guilt. And when He comes to one who is in prison, in his feelings, and who fears the pit will shut her mouth upon him, it is not to OFFER LIBERTY, but to GIVE IT: for He is sent to “proclaim liberty to the captives, and the OPENING of the prison to them that are bound.” But a gospel so Sovereign in every branch of it, so mighty in its application—leaving man nothing to boast of—is hated by those who have not been under the humbling, but saving teaching of the Holy Spirit.

Assuming that it is the will of God that every creature should be saved, which is not true, men have made the conversion of sinners an art, and have resorted to all sorts of unscriptural methods to compass their end. “Sadly forgetful” of Him who said “I kill, and I make alive,” they are “madly bold” in their efforts to wrest God’s special work out of His hands.

The parable of the sower is NOT applicable to this religious movement, since Mr. Moody has no GOOD seed to sow. To be sure he reads the word of God, but, then, he endeavours to expound it, and this exposition is nothing less than a fouling of the pure waters of truth. Ez. xxxiv. 19.

Fundamental errors, preached and sang, cannot produce a TRUE Christian!


  1. I’ve sat thinking upon this for several days now. I’ve long had great admiration of Mr Moody for his dedication, but always troubled by his lack of clearly defined theology in certain respects. Some read his sermons and find him on one side of a vital theological issue; another finds him on the opposite side. He would have made a winning politician. Moody was, as my favorite politician once defined his fellows, a “mugwump.” A mugwump is someone with his “mug” on one side of the fence, and his “wump” on the other side.

    Moody may have held convictions on important theological matters one way or the other, but he never expressed them publicly. That’s a shame. It’s also one of the problems I have with most evangelists I’ve encountered. They are so driven to see as many people saved “as possible” that their theology suffers from clarity. In reality, isn’t it also the work of Christ which suffers? Many people are led to a false salvation and assurance of salvation based upon the hazy preaching of the evangelist. Just as driving a car in thick haze is dangerous, so is preaching a hazy message.

    It is little different than visiting the congregation where a family member attends many years ago. The preacher opened with a Bible verse, then spent the evening talking about the importance of financial integrity. Jesus was not mentioned once in the “sermon.” At the conclusion, the preacher instructed everyone to bow their heads and close their eyes (something I refuse to do). Anyone who wanted to “receive what we’ve been talking about tonight” was asked to look at the preacher as a public confession. A prayer was then said and the lookers encouraged to repeat “with all your heart.” The nearly dozen people who looked at the preacher were then declared “saved.”

    Hazy theology from hazy preachers produces hazy converts. Converts to what, I can’t say.

    Thank you for posting this very helpful commentary by someone who attended Moody’s meetings so long ago.

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