Dwight Lyman Moody (1837-1899) was born in Northfield, MA, the son of a bricklayer. In 1854 he moved to Boston to clerk in his uncle's shoe store. It was there that Moody was converted. He moved to Chicago in 1856 and established a slum Sunday School which became an independent church. Moody is most remembered for his series of revivals throughout the U.S. and Britain (1873-1891), as he was accompanied by the organist and singer Ira D. Sankey. We have placed this sermon here because it is still as accurate and as timeless as the day it was first preached. Enjoy.
I propose tonight to take a subject rather than a text, and that subject is conversion -- instant salvation. One reason why I am led to take up this subject is because I have received a large number of letters asking me how it is that I can teach such a "pernicious doctrine" that a man can be saved all at once -- that salvation is instantaneous.
One of the writers goes on to say that it is clearly taught in the Word of God that conversion is a gradual thing -- that it is a life work -- and that it is a dangerous thing to teach that a man can come into this tabernacle a sinner and go out a saved man. Now, let us see what is taught in the Word of God, and if it does not teach instantaneous salvation, let us give up the idea.
I hold to it as I do to my life, and I would as quickly give up my life as give up this doctrine, unless it can be proved that it is not according to the Word of God.
The first illustration I want to call your attention to is when the voice came from Heaven to Noah: "And the Lord said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation."
As long as Noah was outside of the ark he was exposed to the wrath of God. If he stayed with those antediluvians [people living before the flood], he would have been swept away, as they were.
It was not his righteousness nor his works that saved him; it was the ark.
And my friends, we do not have to be like Noah, 120 years making an ark for our safety. God has provided an ark for us and the question is: Are you inside or outside this ark?
If you are inside you are safe; if you are outside you are not safe.
When I was in Manchester, I went up to the gallery to speak to some people. While we were standing in a little group, a man came up and stood near us.
He was a respectable looking man, and I thought by his general appearance he was skeptical. I didn't think he had come up as an inquirer, but as I stood I noticed tears trickling down his face, and I went to him and asked him if he wanted to seek Christ, and he answered, "Yes."
I went on talking to him but he could not see what I meant. I thought I would use and illustration, and after I had put it to him I asked him if he saw it. He said "No."
I gave him another illustration, and asked him, "Do you see it now?" But again he replied, "No." I used two or three more illustrations, but he could not see them.
He said, "Mr. Moody, the fact is I do not feel the evidence of God." I said, "You are not to be saved by your feelings, and I gave him this illustration: 'What was it that saved Noah? Was it his ark, or was it his feelings, or his life, or his prayers?' "I see it now, it's all right," he replied.
This was Thursday night, and he had to leave on a night train. On the Sunday afternoon, while preaching in the Free Trade Hall, a man came and tapped me on the shoulder, and asked me if I knew him. I said, "No." He said, "do you remember when you spoke to me on Thursday and used the illustration of Noah's ark to save me?" "Yes," I answered.
"Well, I got in then, and have been there ever since."
May God help you to see this illustration, and may you not be trying to save yourselves by your feelings, your tears, or by your wounds. God has provided an ark. Every man who is in is saved, and every one who is out is lost.
Let us take another Bible illustration. Look at those two angels coming down to Sodom. They knew that God was going to destroy it utterly, and they led Lot out.
What was it that saved his life? Was it his feelings, his tears? It was by obeying the call: "Escape for your life."
Now God says, escape for your life -- escape to Mount Calvary. Don't delay, because he is going to destroy this world as He did Sodom.
Look again, look at those children of Israel when they were commanded to put the blood on the door-posts and they would be saved from the hand of death. What was it that saved them? Was it the blood or was it their feelings?
The moment the blood was there they were saved, and if a man is behind the blood of Christ he is as safe as if he was walking the crystal pavement of Heaven. When the blood was there the angel of death passed over. One moment the blood was off the posts and the next moment it was on. It was instantaneous salvation.
Let's look at two men out in the woods chopping wood [in Old Testament Israel]. As one of the men brings his axe down on the tree, it splits and flies from his hand and kills his companion. He knows what the consequence will be when the killing is discovered. He knows it will be sure death the moment the news reaches the nearest relative of the deceased.
If a relative would not avenge the death of a kinsman it was considered very dishonorable among the Israelites.
The man knows there is a city of refuge ten miles away, and if he can reach it, he is safe. That man makes for the city. The news soon spreads that a man has been killed, and the killer is making for the city of refuge. When the brother learns what his kinsman has been killed, he starts after the poor fugitive. On they go -- the avenger and the fugitive -- flying to this haven of hope.
It is a life and death struggle. Look at him! Se him, as he leaps ditches and speeds along the road.
Some people see him flying past. "Make haste," they cry, "because the avenger is upon you. Fly for your life!"
Ah, sinner, you do not know how far the avenger is behind you. Tonight he may be upon you. We do not know the day, the hour, when he will overtake us.
Finally, he sees the gates of the city. The officers see him from the walls, and shout, "Hasten on, for the avenger is behind thee." One moment he is outside the walls -- the next moment he is inside. He is a saved man!
One moment out, the next moment in. Don't you see from this that conversion is instantaneous. One minute you may be outside, and the next minute you are inside.
You will remember when we had slavery we used to have men come up from slave states to escape. We all remember when these men came here how they used to be afraid lest some one should come and take them back.
I remember in the store we had a poor fugitive and he would be uneasy all the time. He was afraid someone would take him back to slavery.
But somebody tells him if he was in Canada he would be perfectly safe, and he says: "If I could only get into Canada I would be free." There are no slaves under the Union Jack he as been told -- that is the flag of freedom, the moment he gets under it he is a free man.
So he starts. But then his master hears that his slave has fled for Canada and he sets off in pursuit. Some one tells the poor fugitive that his master is after him. What does the poor fugitive do?
He redoubles his exertions and presses on. He is a slave born, and he knows a slave belongs to his master. Faster he goes. And he comes to the border of safety. One minute he is a slave, then in an instant he is a free man!
My friends, don't mistake. Your old master, Satan, may be pressing down upon you, but there is a land of liberty up there, and the banner of Heaven is the flag of love, and under that flag you are protected from all danger, and if an enemy comes near you God says: "If you touch him, you touch the apple of my eye."
He will hold you in His right hand and keep you for the day of redemption.
Look what he said to Moses. He told him to put a brazen [brass] serpent on a pole, and whenever a man looked at that serpent he would live.
If some of the preachers we have now in Chicago had lived then they would have said a man may look 6,000 years at that and he wouldn't be saved.
Why, every conversion recorded in the Bible was instantaneous, and if preachers tell men conversion is a life work they are keeping men out of the kingdom of God. "Now is the day of salvation!"
I tell you, sinners, escape for your lives, fly to the haven of safety -- look at the crucified one and you will be saved tonight. Look and live!
The minute you take Christ's gift, that minute you are a child of God. When you accept Him, He becomes your Way, your Truth, your Light, your All in All.
If a man goes out of the Tabernacle tonight without salvation -- it will not be because the ark is not open, but because you will not accept the invitation to enter; it will not be because the blessing is not there, but because you will not take it, for it's there.
1. That everyone who has ever lived (but Jesus Christ) is a sinner.
Romans 3:10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:
Romans 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
This means that me, you, Billy Graham and the Pope -- every human being falls into the category of a sinner needing forgiveness for our sins.
2. That unsaved sinners go to hell when they die.
Romans 5:12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:
Ezekiel 18:20 The soul that sinneth, it shall die...
Psalm 9:17 The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.
3. That God loves even sinners and Jesus Christ died to save sinners.
Romans 5:8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
There was a time when we believed that Jesus died for the "good people," then we read and understood the Bible that there are no good people -- everyone needs Jesus.
John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
4. That the only means of salvation is to accept PERSONALLY the "gift of eternal life from Jesus Christ."
Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Ephes. 2:8-9 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.
A gift means exactly that -- it free for the accepting. But remember, like any gift, it may be purchased for you but it is not yours until you personally accept it!!
So too is salvation. Jesus died for the sins of every person who ever did live, or lives, or who ever will live. However, they are not all saved. First comes the repentance -- acknowledging the need for salvation, then the accepting of the free gift of salvation.
It is instantaneous just as Mr. Moody said so many years ago. But it must be a personal transaction between you and God. And it must be asked for.
"How do I ask God to save me?"
It is as simple as praying something like this:
"Dear Lord, I know that I am a lost sinner. I need to be saved. I do repent of my sins and ask You to forgive me. The best way I know how I am trusting right now in Jesus Christ as my personal Saviour. I pray that You will provide guidance for me as I live and grow in my faith. Thank you Jesus for saving my soul!"
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