on the question of conscience – advice from D. L. Moody

My wife frequents thrift stores. The last two days she has been coming home with some real treasures, another church apparently discarded books from their library so I got Hodge on Romans for $1 and several others. Among the books she picked up was a little Moody Press book, Talks to Christians by D. L. Moody. In a message to Young Converts [apparently at a meeting in New York state somewhere], he had this to say:


Some people ask me questions about their daily walk and conduct. They say, “I would like to know whether it is right for me to go to the theater?” “I would like to know whether it is right for me to smoke?” Or “Is it all right to drink moderately?” I cannot carry your consciences; Christ does not lay down rules; He lays down principles. One rule I have had is this: If there is anything I am troubled about in my conscience, and am uncertain whether it is right or not, I give Christ the benefit of the doubt. It is better to be a little too strict than too liberal. And let me say to you young converts and you Christians here, the eyes of the world are upon you; they are watching.

For myself, I could not go to the theater; I would not like to have my children go. I do not do anything myself that I would not like to have them do. I could not smoke, because I would not want my boy to smoke. I could not read those flashy novels. I have no taste for them, no desire to read them; but if I did I would not do it. But, if you live to please Him, you will not have any trouble in these things. He says, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally.”

Another rule is: Don’t do anything you cannot feel like praying over. Once I received an invitation to be at the opening of a large billiard hall. I suppose they thought it was a good joke to invite me. I went before the time came and asked the man if he meant it. He said yes. I asked him if I might bring a Friend along. He said I might.

I said, “If you say or do anything that will grieve my Friend I may speak to Him during your exercises.”

They didn’t know what I meant, and knitted their brows and looked puzzled. At last he asked, “You are not going to pray, are you? We never want any praying here.”

“Well,” I said, “I never go where I cannot pray; but I’ll come round.”

“No,” said he, “we don’t want you.”

“Well, I’ll come anyway, since you invited me,” said I. But he rather insisted that I shouldn’t, and finally I told him: “We’ll compromise the matter. I won’t come if you will let me pray with you now.” So he agreed to that, and I got down with one rum-seller on each side of me, and prayed that they might fail in their business, and never have any more success in it from that day. Well, they went on for about two months, and then, sure enough, they failed. God answered prayer that time.

In Europe in a place where there was a good deal of whiskey distilled, one of the men in the business was a church member, and he got a little anxious in his conscience about his business. He came and asked me if I thought that a man could not be an honest distiller.

I said, “You should do, whatever you do, for the glory of God. If you can get down and pray about a barrel of whiskey, and say, for instance, when you sell it, ‘O Lord God, let this whiskey be blessed to the world,’ it is probably honest.”

Do not live to please yourself. Live to please Christ. If you cannot do a thing honestly, give it up, let the consequences be what they may. If you take my advice you will never touch strong drink as long as you live. Nearly all the young converts that have fallen in Europe have been led into it by that cursed cup. “Yes, but,” you say, “some of the church members, some of the Christians that stand. high, drink moderately.” Well, don’t you touch it if they do. Some men have strong will and can tell where to stop; but bear in mind that ninety-nine out of a hundred have not strong wills, and your son may be the very next one to go too far. If it is not an injury to yourselves, give it up for Christ’s sake, and for the sake of others. Any of you who have once been slaves to it, come out and try to rescue others who are still slaves to it. As Dr. Bonner, of Philadelphia, said, “Be sure you do not tarnish the old family name. You have been born into the family of God, and you must sustain its high credit.” Some of these old families of New York think a good deal of their names; and that is right. A good name is worth more than riches. Now that you have become the sons and daughters of God, do not disgrace the old family name. The eyes of the world are upon you; walk as a son of the King, as a daughter of Heaven, a. child of God, and the world will become better for you, and by your walk and conversation you will light others to Christ.

Turn now to Acts 20:32: “And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.” That was Paul’s farewell to the Ephesians. Oh, how sweet it is! “He is able to lift you up.” Some of the young converts have got their Bibles out, I see. That is right. I marked that a good many years ago. It has been a great help to me. Paul had been three years among them, and had prayed and wept over them. If you learn your Bible well, you are certain to be good Christians. If the Word of God is not hid in our hearts, how can the Holy Ghost work through us?

That is pretty good wisdom, I’d say. I believe that we can argue against alcohol specifically a little more strenuously from the Bible, but what Moody offers here is good practical wisdom, infused with Biblical principle and Spirit-filled wisdom. If Christians lived with this kind of wisdom, we would have less confusion and a good deal less moral lapses.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3