The Northfield Schools
For Dwight L. Moody the main task in life was evangelism, to “win men to Christ,” to save souls.
The salvation message, then, must be delivered as persuasively and as clearly as possible, and by as many evangelists as could be summoned for the task. Moody conceived of education as the means to prepare religious workers—first by converting them and then by training them to evangelize others. Not only seminary-trained pastors with B.D.’s were to be enlisted for the effort, but also legions of devoted laypersons who had received a brief but effective training. Since in Moody’s mind education and evangelism were so closely connected, most of his notions about education derived from his conception of the evangelistic task.
Moody’s Own Education
Moody himself had received only the most rudimentary education—about the equivalent of the fifth grade. In an era when most people did not attend high school, this was not remarkable, except that the lack of learning and polish showed all over Moody. During his early days in Chicago his grammar was impossible; his pronunciation smacked of the Massachusetts hill country of his boyhood; his vocabulary was poor; and his spelling can be described only as imaginative. His physical appearance struck even the street Arabs of Chicago as “uncouth.” He moved awkwardly, spoke awkwardly, and stumbled when he read. In short, Moody was not only ill educated; he also struck observers as a country bumpkin, a rube in the big city. An early Chicago acquaintance recalled, “No one ever thought he would amount to much on account of that fact that he was so poorly educated.”
Eventually Moody’s more polished and better educated wife, Emma Revell, gently went to work on him. Reportedly they spent an hour every day ...