A man said to me some time ago:
"Moody, I don't like your style of preaching."
"You always try to get the people to act at once. Why don't you give them time to meditate and consider?"
"Well, my friend," I said, "I once gave an audience a week to decide what they would do with Jesus Christ. I would thrust my arm into the fire before I would do that again. I would not dare to give an audience a week or even an hour. I don't know what may happen in an hour."
I remember preaching in Chicago on five consecutive Sunday nights on the life of Christ. On the fifth night I had got Him into the hands of Pilate, and Pilate was like a good many people, perplexed, not knowing what to do with Christ. I had taken the familiar text, "What shall I do with Jesus, who is called Christ?" After I had preached as strong a sermon as I could I said to the audience, — and it was about as big a blunder as I ever made in all my life — "I want you to take this question home and consider it, and next Sunday night I want you to go to Calvary with me, and there, under the cross, we will settle what to do with Jesus Christ."
Just then the great city bell, only a block away, rang out an alarm of fire. That was nothing in those days, and I paid no attention to it. But the alarm continued, and while the bell was ringing out a general alarm, Mr. Sankey closed the meeting by singing "To-day the Saviour calls." The last verse rang through the hall,
"To-day the Saviour calls,
For refuge fly;
The storm of vengeance falls,
For death is nigh."
It seemed afterwards as if that verse was prophetic. We held an inquiry-meeting, but not many remained. How could we expect it when I had given them a week to decide what to do with Jesus? After the inquiry-meeting we started for home. As soon as I started I found that the city was doomed; even the clapboards of the building we were in were falling, and the burning shingles were dropping down. The fire was breaking out all around me. It was a very serious question whether I could get home to my wife and children and get them to a place of safety. When I got them out of bed, flames thirty feet high were following me, and before midnight the hall where I preached that sermon was in ashes; before two o'clock the church where I worshiped was in ashes; before three o'clock the house that I lived in was in ashes. Before daybreak next morning one hundred thousand people were burned out of house and home. It seemed to me that I had a glimpse in that fire of what the Day of Judgment will be, when I saw flames rolling down the streets, twenty and thirty feet high, consuming everything in its march that did not flee. I saw there the millionaire and the beggar fleeing alike. There was no difference. That night great men, learned men, wise men, all fled alike. There was no difference. And when God comes to judge the world there will be no difference.
No one knows exactly how many perished in the flames that awful night. It was estimated that a thousand people were burned alive: and right around that hall a good many perished. I have reason to believe that some who heard me were in eternity before midnight. That was in 1871. I shall never meet that audience again, and I had given them a whole week to decide what to do with Jesus.
D. L. Moody