"I was preaching on the life of Christ. I had spent 4 Sunday nights on the subject and had followed Christ from the manger along through his life to his arrest and trial, and on the 5th Sunday night, October 8, I was preaching to the largest congregation I had ever had in Chicago, quite elated with my success. My text was "What shall I do then with Jesus which is called the Christ?"
That night I made one of the biggest mistakes of my life. After preaching… with all the power that God had given me, urging Christ upon the people, I closed the sermon and said, "I wish you would take this text home with you and turn it over in your minds during the week, and next Sunday we will come to Calvary and the cross, and we will decide what we will do with Jesus of Nazareth."
He then turned to Brother Ira Sankey for a solo, and Sankey sang, "Today the Saviour Calls." But by the 3rd stanza Sankey’s voice was drowned out by the noise outside the hall. A fire broke out nearby and the flames were sweeping toward the Hall. The clanging
of the fire bells and the noise of the engines made it impossible to continue the meeting. Moody quickly dismissed the meeting and sent the people out of the building. It was the beginning of the Great Chicago Fire, which over the next 27 hours left 300 dead, 90,000 homeless, and a great city in ashes. Obviously, Moody never got to finish his sermon series.
He said: "I have never seen that congregation since. I have to fight hard to keep back the tears today.... 22 years have passed away... and I will never meet those people again until I meet them in another world. But I want to tell you one lesson I learned that night, which I have never forgotten, and that is, when I preach to press Christ upon the people then and there, I try to bring them to a decision on the spot. I would rather have [my] right hand cut off than give an audience a week to decide what to do with Jesus."
The Gospel is too important to be left to tomorrow, or next week.
… Jim Cymbala’s book ‘Fresh Wind Fresh Fire’ (p.125).
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