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Origins of Dispensationalism Part 5: D. L. Moody

Updated on August 22, 2018
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Barry is the founder and director of Expositors International Ministry and dean of Bible Expositors Seminary, Philippines.

Coming to America

In 1930 John N. Darby began to travel and subsequently spread his teachings regarding millennialism and futurism. He visited Paris, Cambridge, and Oxford, and then went to Plymouth. By 1936 he was considered to have departed from the original teachings and was no longer influential among the Brethren in Britain. He did however influence and encourage Brethrenism on the Continent. Between 1838 and 1840 Darby worked in Switzerland. Between 1853 and 1854 Darby worked on translating the New Testament into German. In 1869 while in Germany he also translated the Old Testament. Dispensationalism never took hold in these areas.

He visited the US numerous times between 1862 and 1877. It was in the US that his teaching caught on. This may be because of the situation in America at that time. The Civil War took place in the years from 1861 until1865. After the war citizens were concerned about post-war construction and the issue of slavery. At first no one considered Darby’s new teaching as relevant but in time pastors began to embrace his end-time views. James H. Brookes, pastor of the Walnut Street Presbyterian Church, in St. Louis, MO. was one of the first influential people to adopt the teachings of Darby. Brookes quickly became a leading proponent of Dispensationalism.

James H. Brookes

The Niagara Bible Conference

In 1868 the Believers' Meeting for Bible Study was organized in New York. James Brookes served as the president from 1875 until his death in 1897. In 1883 the conferences were moved to Niagara-on-the- lake, Ontario and the name of the meetings was changed to the Niagara Bible Conferences. These conferences were instrumental in promoting the views of Dispensationalism, Futurism and Pre-tribulation Millennialism. It is important to note that the Niagara Bible Conference produce its own 14 point creed. The 14th point affirmed “The premillennial Second Coming of Christ.”

This was the beginning of what would later be called the “Bible Conferences Movement.” Numerous topics were presented at the Bible conferences and Dispensationalism was always an important subject. Many people were influenced through the conferences and Dispensationalism began to be more accepted. The Bible conference movement inspired the production of many publications promoting Dispensational views as well. Such examples include:

-Truth by James Brookes

- Watchword by Adoniram J. Gordon, in 1878[1]

- Our Hope, Arno C. Gaebelein

- The Prophetic Times, various editors, (1863 and 1881)

-Waymarks in the Wilderness, James Inglis, (1854-1857 and 1864-1872)

“The success of the Niagara Bible Conference sparked a national bible conference movement as hundreds of preachers started their own regional conferences on the same template of multi-day meetings with an emphasis on dispensational premillenialism. The most successful of the imitators was founded by evangelist Dwight L. Moody, who after speaking at Niagara several times, founded the Northfield Conference in Massachusetts focused on training young people for foreign mission work.[2]

The Northfield Conferences

 “Built in 1894, the auditorium on the Northfield campus seated 2,500 and was primarily constructed to serve the throngs of people attending Dwight L. Moody's summer conferences. In this photo, Moody is on stage, seated fourth from the right. Courtes
“Built in 1894, the auditorium on the Northfield campus seated 2,500 and was primarily constructed to serve the throngs of people attending Dwight L. Moody's summer conferences. In this photo, Moody is on stage, seated fourth from the right. Courtes | Source

In 1880 evangelist D.L. Moody established the Northfield Conferences. These conferences are perhaps most known for their influence on missions through the Student Volunteer Movement in 1886. The first conference was attended by 350 people but these numbers eventually grew to over 10,000 in the 1920s. The three major themes of the conference were holiness teachings, premillennialism, and the use of nondenominational agencies to propagate the gospel. The conferences gave the Dispensationalist a prominent platform to spread their teachings.

In the early years, speakers at the conferences included missionary J. Hudson Taylor, early Fundamentalist A.J. Gordon and A. T. Perison of the Keswick holiness movement. Joining them was also R.A. Torrey and C.I Scofield.[3] It cannot be ignored that it was during this time that Dispensationalism became married to Fundamentalism. As the Fundamentalists were arguing for a “literal” interpretation of the Bible against the Liberals it is easy to understand how that they would accept the “literalist” view of eschatology being presented by the Dispensationalists. Dispensationalism was quickly brought into the creeds and still is included in many Fundamental church confessions today. An example of this is found in Article XIV of the 1878 Niagara Bible Conference Creed which states:

"We believe that the world will not be converted during the present dispensation, but is fast ripening for judgment, while there will be a fearful apostasy in the professing Christian body; and hence that the Lord Jesus will come in person to introduce the millennial age, when Israel shall be restored to their own land, and the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord; and that this personal and premillennial advent is the blessed hope set before us in the Gospel for which we should be constantly looking."

D.L. Moody

Moody’s Avenues of Influence

Moody Bible Institute

The origins of Moody Bible Institute can be traced to the work of Miss Emma Dryer. She was a principal and teacher at Illinois State Normal University. After the Great Chicago fire of 1871, Miss Dryer ministered to the numerous people who were left homeless. She started a Bible study program and a home visitation program for young women.

Mr. Moody encouraged Miss Dryer to move her ministry under his church and continue her work. She in turn encouraged Moody to establish an institution to train young men and women for the ministry. This was the inspiration for the Chicago Evangelism Society which was later renamed as the Moody Bible Institute.

In January of 1901 D.L. Moody established the Moody Correspondence School that admitted both men and women. The courses were taken by mail. In October of 1903 Moody also created the Evening School which offered classes four nights a week. While the correspondence school was primarily for students who could also earn college credits for their work the evening school was to train lay-leaders who could work in their churches while maintaining a day job.

Moody Press

Moody was married to Emma Revell in 1862. She had a brother named Fleming H. Revell. Revell had established a publishing company in 1869 at the urging of D.L. Moody. The company originally published Sunday school papers and later went on to publish books and Moody’s sermons. By 1900 the company had grown to the largest publisher of religious material in North America. As you might guess, the company later became known as Moody Press.[4]

Why is this relevant to our discussion of Dispensationalism? Perhaps we could ask the question how was it that Dispensationalism moved from a topic isolated in the conferences in north east US to being embraced by a great number of Evangelicals east of the Mississippi River? The answer is partial found in the work of Moody. Through the Bible college campus, the correspondence schools and more over and most importantly the Sunday school materials, Dispensationalism was disseminated throughout the eastern seaboard and into the deep south of the US.

Continue to Part 6

Foot Notes

[1] After the death of Brookes and Gordon, Robert Cameron became editor of both the Watchword and Truth.

[2] Beale, David O., 1986. In Pursuit of Purity: American Fundamentalism Since 1850. Greenville, SC: Unusual Publications. <http://thearda.com/timeline/events/event_93.asp> August 3, 2018

[3] E.W. Kenyon and His Message of Faith: The True Story

By Joe McIntyre, 2014, (eBook version)

[4] Allan Fisher, D. L. Moody’s Contribution to Christian Publishing, originally published in Christian History issue #25 1990; <https://christianhistoryinstitute.org/magazine/article/moodys-contribution-to-christian-publishing> August 15, 2018

The Origins of Dispensationalism Part 1 HERE

Read more about Moody

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    • extraordinaryman profile imageAUTHOR

      Barry G Carpenter 

      16 months ago from Mindanao, Philippines

      Thank you for sharing. I will read the article.

    • Trevor-Cunningham profile image

      Trevor Cunningham 

      16 months ago from United States

      I wanted to share this article with you.

      Not because I wrote it, but because I believe it is vitally important to the near-future of Christianity, Israel, and the End of The Age.

      Dr. Irvin Baxter is wonderful. I understand the denominations that he is affiliated with, but I urge you to check out his work on the End Times if you have a down moment.

      He has a program every Weekday from 3-4PM CT.

      If you have a moment, please read:

      https://hubpages.com/religion-philosophy/Donald-Tr...

    • Trevor-Cunningham profile image

      Trevor Cunningham 

      16 months ago from United States

      I am affiliated with the Baptist denomination.

      If I could I'd attend a Reformed Baptist church, as it is the branch that I've found is as close to Biblical practice as possible. There just aren't any in my area that I could regularly attend.

      Be blessed!

    • extraordinaryman profile imageAUTHOR

      Barry G Carpenter 

      16 months ago from Mindanao, Philippines

      I am a fan of White also. What is your affiliation/denomination?

    • Trevor-Cunningham profile image

      Trevor Cunningham 

      16 months ago from United States

      Excellent! Do you keep up with any Baptist apologetic figures such as James White? I love his debates.

    • extraordinaryman profile imageAUTHOR

      Barry G Carpenter 

      16 months ago from Mindanao, Philippines

      Thank you Trevor for the comment. I did not know there was a "Brookes Bible College." Now I am curious also. I am a Reformed Baptist.

    • Trevor-Cunningham profile image

      Trevor Cunningham 

      16 months ago from United States

      Fabulous, informative article. Interesting bit of information on James H. Brookes out of St. Louis, MO. I'm not far from St. Louis, and as I recall there is a "Brookes Bible College" there that offers a 2-year program. I wonder if there is any correlation?

      Out of curiosity... which denomination are you affiliated with?

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