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Summer Suns in the Far West
Chapter XV. North Field and Home

FROM Niagara we struck eastwards for a few days’ visit to Mr. D. L. Moody, who was taking a kind of holiday at Northfield. Northfield, in the west of Massachusetts, is Mr. Moody’s birthplace; a quiet New England village, very beautifully situated, commanding a fine view of the Connecticut River and Valley and the mountains beyond. I call it a village, speaking in the English fashion, but in America it is a town, or rather a township. It is seven miles in length; that is to say, there are houses dotted over seven miles, mostly embosomed in trees, and with the appearance of a sparse city suburb. About a mile from what may be called the centre of the town is a plain but bright-looking wooden house, with its screen of fine maple trees in front—the summer home of the great evangelist. A little higher is a smaller and plainer house—Moody’s birthplace and the residence of his old mother. When I was last here, nine years before, there had been built by Mr. Moody, a few hundred yards from his house, a large college, with accommodation for some sixty girls. It was designed for the teaching and training of young women, so as to fit them for situations of usefulness—as teachers, missionaries, or otherwise. That was the day of small things; the change from then to now is enormous. Instead of one, there are now five large buildings and six or seven smaller; a fine park of some two hundred acres has been acquired, and its well-kept lawns and undulating surface dotted with trees make it a charming campus for the academical buildings spread over it. Instead of sixty, there are now three hundred young ladies. And four miles away, on the other side of the Connecticut River, is a similar college for young men. A similar group of buildings, large and small, provides accommodation for three hundred. It happened that while we were there the pupils had just assembled for the work of the session. These buildings represented an outlay of about a million dollars, a large part of which arose from royalties on the sale of hymn-books. Mr. Moody was engaged in a great effort to raise a capital sum, the income of which would provide for the expenditure of the two colleges. And being one of those men who do not begin what they do not see their way to finish, he will doubtless, at no distant period, succeed in obtaining Ids desire.

Mr. Moody, we cannot help thinking, has followed a sound policy in having his colleges separate, each for a single sex. There are many questions at the present day about the higher education in America, both of men and women, and one of these is, whether it is right to allow both sexes to study together at the same college, and to be members of the same classes. For our part, we have a decided conviction that it is not. Anything that tends to obliterate the distinctive qualities of the sexes must be injurious. We cannot but think that this evil result must take place when they study in the same rooms and hear the same lectures—medical lectures, it may be, on subjects of delicacy. We conceive, therefore, that in separating the two schools, Mr. Moody has not only done right, but set a good example to his countrymen.

The colleges are conducted on the principle of self-help. Each student pays a sum of money, but not the whole sum expended on him. In the male college every youth has to give two hours’ labour on the farm. In the college for girls there are no servants; the work of the house is done by the young women themselves.

Mr. Moody differs from nearly all the evangelists we have known in his intense concern for the permanent outcome of his labours, and his most careful endeavour to prevent the spirit kindled at his meetings from evaporating in temporary excitement. These colleges are one proof of his desire to build up, to establish Christian habits of life, to set young men and young women to work that will exercise and develop and strengthen feelings that might otherwise be fitful and evanescent. And the great aggressive enterprise with which he is now grappling in Chicago is another evidence of his love of complete and solid work. He is training an agency for going out to the highways and the hedges, for pervading all of Chicago that is neglecting the things that pertain to its peace, and constraining such to come in that the house may be filled. With all his evangelistic ardour, Mr. Moody has no sympathy with fanaticism. His singular Christian shrewdness gives a wide berth to fads.

At Northfield Mr. Moody takes his holiday. The fashion of it is rather peculiar. I asked the man that takes charge of his horses how often they were out. Sometimes, he said, he will require a conveyance at five in the morning, and two or three times during the day, and perhaps till late at night. He would be out before breakfast to confer with workmen about something needed for the schools. The forenoon would be occupied in answering a great correspondence and despatching letters with reference to his engagements and his institutions. In the afternoon, perhaps, he would be acting the peacemaker at some parish meeting, trying to settle an angry quarrel about a public road that threatened a bitter law plea. In the evening he would be away to Mount Hermon to preach to “the boys.” On the Sunday, he would preach in the church which he has built partly for his schools and partly for the neighbourhood, gathering a great congregation round him. In the intervals of employment he would be bright, cheerful, full of fun. He is now the great man of the place, yet is as neighbourly and unaffected and brotherly as in the days when he was a school-boy or a worker on his mother’s farm. Nor does he seem a whit more elated by the marvellous influence he has acquired the world over, and the blessed work he has done. Only an instrument in other hands. No man would sing more heartily the 115th Psalm, or more cordially take for his motto, Laus Deo.

We are yet more than three thousand miles from home; but I am tired writing, and “it is fit the spell should break of this protracted dream.” From Northfield to New York we had a peep of New England, particularly Northampton, Hartford, and Newhaven, much regretting that we were obliged this time to pass over the great cradle of the American republic. At New York we tarried but a day. There had been rain for a week, and there was rain still, and the newspapers were having leaders, “Will it ever stop?” Worse than that, there had been a terrific storm at sea, and the coast-line of New York State had been fearfully injured. It was a gruesome prospect to take to the sea in such weather; but, much to our satisfaction, we learned that the storm had been confined to the shore, and did not extend to the ocean. On a Saturday morning we got on board our old ship the Funiessia, and were met by a warm and excellent friend, General Swyne, whose acquaintance we had made in the train between Victoria and Winnipeg, who presented us with a charming basket of fruit, and a bundle of illustrated journals and magazines, to refresh mind and body by the way. Half an hour after leaving New York we were involved in mist; we had to cast anchor in the bay, and did not get it lifted for forty-eight hours; but when we did get off we pegged steadily away. At last the welcome shores of old Ireland greeted us, and by-and-by the Mull of Cantire and the green fields and white cottages of Arran. On a gloomy forenoon we sailed up the Clyde all the way to Glasgow. The first thing that caught my eye was a placard—“The late Dr. Somerville.” So he, too, had gone where we should see his beaming face no more.

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