Adapted from the testimony by Dwight L. Moody
How Mr. Davis Stopped Swearing
Mr. Davis was a wealthy man. He had a fine house and fine horses. He had a lovely wife and seven beautiful children. But he had one terrible habit that he could not break. Whenever Mr. Davis was bothered about something, he would swear. On days that he was especially busy and tired, he would often curse those around him.
Now his wife was a Christian and he knew she didn’t like to hear bad words and cursing. “Pardon my swearing,” he would say, “I’ll try to be more careful, dear.” But no matter how hard he tried to stop, the dirty words would come out of his mouth. And because he was mad at himself, Mr. Davis cursed because he couldn’t break his bad habit.
One evening Mr. Davis was out for a ride when he saw a large crowd gathered in a field. On one side a gentleman was standing on a platform, preaching. “Moody Gospel Meeting This Week” a banner said. The last time Mr. Davis had been to church was when someone had died, but he was curious. He stopped his horse by the side of the road where he could listen.
“My friend, you might not think you are a big sinner. Maybe you’ve never stolen or murdered. But even if you aren’t a criminal, sin is going to ruin you. If you’ve broken one of God’s laws, are you not guilty?” As the preacher asked the question, he looked across the crowd. Mr. Davis rubbed his forehead nervously. But the next part was worse. “Do you swear and take God’s name in vain? Do you lie or cheat? This does not please God! Jesus Christ died to redeem you, to save you from sin. Whatever the sin is, make up your mind that you will gain the victory over it.”
At that, Mr. Davis whipped his horse and started off down the road. “Curse that man!” he said, angrily. “He knows nothing about my troubles. I swear because I’m a businessman and there is nothing I can do to change.” He cursed God and laughed bitterly. But he couldn’t get the preacher’s words out of his mind, and the next afternoon he stopped by the field again.
This time the man was preaching about God’s love. Mr. Davis listened for awhile, but the topic made him feel uneasy. “So I ought to love God enough to give up my swearing habit? If that’s what he’s driving at, he’s a fool,” Mr. Davis muttered to himself, then cursed. “If love could get me to change, I’d be a new man already!” As he turned to head home for the night he thought of his wife. “Meg is such a dear to bear with my swearing, but I’d better not be late for dinner.”
His wife met him at the door and said that several businessmen were waiting in the drawing room to talk with him. Mr. Davis was soon discussing prices and taxes with his visitors, and hardly noticed when she called them in to dinner. “I’m sorry that it is a bit late,” she said. “The cook has been ill, so I had to fix the roast. I’m afraid it is a bit overdone.” Mr. Davis nodded and took the carving knife. He was still figuring out the profits on his newest business venture as he tried to saw through the meat. Suddenly he realized that everyone was waiting on him. “Curse the cook!” he swore, as he stabbed at the roast. Mrs. Davis’ face turned red, but he didn’t notice. “Get me a new knife!” he said, swearing again. “This blamed thing can’t cut worth a cent!”
That evening, after his guests had left and the children were in bed, Mr. Davis sat down with his wife to talk over the day. “You’d be happy to know that I stopped by that gospel meeting again,” he told her, with wry smile. “But I curse that preacher for talking about blamed things he knows nothing about!” Mr. Davis stopped as he noticed his wife’s pale face. “Sorry, Meg, I shouldn’t say such things to you. You are such a sweet thing that never does anyone wrong.”
“Then why did you curse me at dinner tonight?” she asked, her eyes filling with tears.
“What! I never cursed you—not in front of our guests?” Mr. Davis looked surprised.
“You cursed me for overcooking the roast, remember?” she said, quietly. “I wished I could have sunk right through the floor!”
“Curse my words,” Mr. Davis muttered angrily to himself, looking out the window. At last he kissed his wife gently and went to bed strangely silent.
A few mornings later Mr. Davis was heading out the gate when a stranger met him. “Is this Mr. Davis?” the man asked, holding out his hand.
“Yes, sir. That is my name,” Mr. Davis replied. The man’s voice sounded familiar, and suddenly he recognized the preacher, Mr. Moody. “What do you want?” he asked, coolly.
“I just had a question to ask, if you won’t be angry,” said Mr. Moody.
“Well, what is it?” Mr. Davis said, leaning against the gate.
“I have heard that God has blessed you greatly, and that He has given you wealth, a beautiful Christian wife, and seven lovely children,” Mr. Moody said. “I don’t know if it is true, but I hear that all He gets in return is cursing and blasphemy.”
Mr. Davis smiled at the frank question and opened the gate. “Come in, come in,” he said. The preacher followed him into his spacious drawing room and they sat down together.
Mr. Davis looked around at his elegant furnishings and the family portraits on the wall. “What you said out there is true,” he told his guest. “If any man has a fine wife, I am the man. I have a lovely family of children, and God has been good to me. But do you know, we had company here the other night and I cursed my wife at the table without even knowing it. After the company was gone, my wife told me about it. Man, I never felt so mean and contemptible in my life!” Mr. Davis confessed, looking at the floor. Then he faced Mr. Moody with flashing eyes. “If I have tried once, I have tried a hundred times to stop swearing. You preachers don’t know anything about it.”
“Yes,” Mr. Moody said calmly. “I know all about it. I have been a drummer in the army, and I’ve heard plenty of swearing.”
Mr. Davis got to his feet and paced the floor. “But you don’t know anything about a businessman’s troubles,” he argued. “With all the pressures and worries he faces, he can’t help swearing.”
“Oh yes, he can,” the preacher replied. “I know something about it. I used to swear myself.”
“What! You used to swear?” Mr. Davis stopped and stared at the preacher in surprise. “How did you stop?”
“I never stopped.”
Mr. Davis felt a sinking feeling inside. Somehow he had thought better of this man. “But, you don’t swear now, do you?” he asked, earnestly.
“No,” Mr. Moody said, smiling at the wealthy man’s worried face. “I haven’t sworn for years.”
Mr. Davis sighed in relief. He hadn’t realized how much he wanted to hear that answer. He looked at Mr. Moody thoughtfully. Here was a man that did know something about it. “How did you stop swearing?” he asked.
“I never stopped,” Mr. Moody said quietly. “It stopped itself.”
Mr. Davis sat down, a puzzled look on his face. “I don’t understand what you mean.”
“I know you don’t,” the preacher said. “But that is why I came here to talk to you. I want to tell you what can make you never want to swear as long as you live. You see, the life I am living I do not live by my own will and strength. I live by the power of Christ Jesus, who lives in my heart.” Mr. Moody spoke humbly and confidently, as if he truly believed what he said.
As Mr. Davis listened, he felt a great desire to understand this man’s secret. “When I abide in Christ, and He abides in me, I don’t live to please myself,” Mr. Moody explained. “Neither do I need to face the temptations and problems of life alone.” The preacher’s eyes lit up. “But it is even better than that. You see, temptations overcome us because there is something inside that is attracted to that sin. You swear because there is bitterness and anger in your heart. But Christ takes those poisons out of you—He purifies the motives and thoughts, and fill us with His great love and gentleness. He takes the desire to do wrong out of us.”
“Well,” Mr. Davis said, thoughtfully, “how can I get Christ?”
Mr. Moody pointed to the floor. “Get down and ask Him for what you want.”
The wealthy man straightened in his seat. “But I was never on my knees in my life,” he protested. “I have been cursing all the day, and I don’t know how to pray or what to pray for.”
“Yes, it is mortifying to have to call on God for mercy when you only use His name in oaths,” Mr. Moody agreed. Then he looked at the miserable man and kindly laid his hand on Mr. Davis’ knee. “But God will not turn you away. Ask Him to forgive you if you want to be forgiven.”
Without a word, Mr. Davis slid to the floor. “O God, I’m sorry for the life I’ve been living. I’m asking for your mercy,” he prayed. “I want Christ in my heart. I want to live right, just like the preacher has been saying.”
Mr. Davis arose, but the proud arrogance was gone. “What shall I do now?” he asked.
“Go to the church and tell the people there that you want to be an out-and-out Christian,” Mr. Moody replied.
“I can’t do that,” Mr. Davis said, swallowing nervously. “I never go to church except for a funeral.”
“Then it is high time for you to go for another reason,” Mr. Moody said, smiling. “Can I look forward to seeing your there?”
Mr. Davis hesitated, the old pride blocking his way. At last he took a deep breath and nodded. “I’ll go,” he decided. “But I don’t know what the people will think.”
The preacher laid his hand on his arm. “Don’t bother about them. It is for Christ that you go,” he said.
The next church service was a prayer meeting, and Mr. Davis rode in the carriage with his family for the first time. As he escorted his wife to a seat, it felt as if everyone turned to look. His heart thumped loudly as he tried to find the song in the hymnal. He hardly noticed when Mr. Moody took the seat in front of him and lead the singing of “Amazing Grace.” “I must stand and ask for prayer,” Mr. Davis told himself. “Right after this song, I must.”
At last the terrible moment came. Mr. Davis stood and clutched the seat in front of him with trembling hands. “My friends, you know all about me,” he said, huskily. “If God can save a wretch like me, I want to ask you to pray for my salvation.”
That was the beginning of a new life for Mr. Davis. The week passed, and then another. But the filthy words and bitter curses no longer were heard from his mouth. His sweet wife and loving children no longer cringed to hear his hasty bursts of anger. Instead, gentleness and kindness begin to stamp themselves on his attitude and all he said.
“Mr. Moody spoke the truth,” Mr. Davis told himself one day. “I have no desire to curse God or man, and those old swear words all sound repulsive. But what a great desire I have to serve God and testify of His goodness and mercy!” The months and years went by, and Mr. Davis became known as an earnest, active Christian. The wealthy man, who had so long been known for his swearing and cursing, was changed.