The most interesting of all my visits on this journey to South Africa was the one to what might be called “The Murray Belt,” a region of Cape Colony which has been especially inﬂuenced by the life of Dr. Andrew Murray, the great devotional writer, his ancestors, and his descendants. Andrew Murray doubtless inﬂuenced and deepened the spiritual life of more Christian people than almost any other man of his century, and yet his pulpit was a somewhat obscure one, among the Boer farmers of Wellington. But his books have “gone forth into all the earth,” and he surely has “a goodly heritage” in the lives of a multitude who rise up and call him blessed.
A decided difference in the spiritual atmosphere can be felt as one travels south from Johannesburg and Kimberley. The prevailing idea in those quarters twenty years ago, at least, was to get rich, and to “get rich quick.” People had gone there to seek gold and precious stones, and to raise sheep on the wide Veldt. The sturdy, homely virtues of the Boers were gradually being overshadowed by the rush of immigrants from different parts of the world, who sought only material things, and of whom it might be said that religion was not even a by-product of their lives.
But as one drew nearer to. Cape Town, one felt the difference in the spiritual atmosphere. Things of the other world had more signiﬁcance, and righteousness, charity, and good will had a larger meaning. Not that there were not many earnest Christians and much religious work done in the neighborhood of the gold mines and the diamond ﬁelds, but I am speaking of the general atmosphere.
It is worthwhile to tell brieﬂy the story of this remarkable family that has largely brought this change, and has made many parts of Cape Colony centers of genuine and deep religious interest.
Something over a hundred years ago the Dutch farmers of Cape Colony became distressed at the rationalistic teaching of their pastors, who had been educated in Holland. Fearing for its effect upon their children, they sent to Scotland for a preacher who was sound in the faith, who believed in the Bible and would preach earnestly the accepted truths of evangelical religion.
A young man named Andrew Murray was sent out to them. He had a particularly youthful face, and the old Dutch farmers said one to another. “They have sent out a girl to preach to us.” But the ﬁrst Andrew Murray proved to be a man, and a man of stalwart stuff, who soon showed by his preaching, strong and courageous and earnest, that he was the man they needed. While in the Adderly Street Dutch Reformed Church, a church that is still ﬂourishing, and where I have spoken on more than one occasion, the young preacher from Scotland saw a fair Dutch girl who attracted his attention. He was at the impressionable age which sooner or later comes to most young men, and, to make a long story short, he wooed and won this fair girl, and, as a bride of only sixteen years of age, carried her off to the parsonage in Graaf Reinet, a ﬂourishing village in an oasis of the Karoo, or desert lands of South Africa.
Here a family of seventeen children were born, twelve of whom lived to grow up, and I was told, when in Graaf Reinet, that each of these children averaged twelve children of their own, though some had several more. Most of them grew up to manhood and womanhood, and became preachers or preachers’ wives, missionaries, or teachers, or religious workers of eminence in some sphere, scattering all over South Africa and making their inﬂuence felt for good wherever they went.
The most eminent of the ﬁrst Andrew Murray’s children was Andrew Murray the second, of whom I have already spoken, the world-renowned preacher, writer, and religious leader. All the children, however, inherited, and, apparently, chieﬂy from their mother, unusual spiritual qualities. She was one of the rare women with a heavenly vision, a mystic of the best type, who could see far into the skies, and genuinely commune with her God.
A homely but touching incident was told me of Grandma Murray, as she was affectionately called, who had died but a few years before my visit to the “Murray Belt.” When a visitor would say to her, “How did it happen, Grandma, that you brought up such a large family, and that they have all turned out so well?” She would say, “Oh, I do not know; I never said much, and I never did very much, but just tried to live as well as I could!” That was all so far as she could tell it perhaps, but how much it involved of gentleness and loving-kindness, of prayer and righteous living, and personal communion with God!
The youngest of the seventeen sons and daughters, and the last survivor of this wonderful family was George Murray, who died in the early days of 1921. I have recently seen a picture of him and his wife and their ﬁfteen interesting children, taken about the time when I was in South Africa. All of those boys and girls and young men and women, were bright, interesting, good-looking and well dressed, and almost all are now full-time Christian workers. Blessed is the man who hath his quiver full of such children. I am glad there was no birth control in that family.
I felt honored to spend a night or two under that roof in Graaf Reinet, where all of the Murray children of the ﬁrst generation were born, and to be the guest for a short time of Andrew Murray of Wellington. This is the Northﬁeld of South Africa. Here Dr. Murray established a splendid school for the higher education of women, a school in which Americans may well take pride, for it was inspired by the life of Mary Lyon, and was modeled after old Mount Holyoke Seminary. Its chief building was given by a philanthropic American of Worcester, Mass., and its earliest teachers, and many of its later ones, have been Americans; Miss Ferguson and Miss Bliss, both graduates of Mt. Holyoke, I think, being the pioneer teachers. Miss Bliss, too, is the pioneer Endeavourer of South Africa and long the secretary of the South African Christian Endeavor Union. Other similar schools have been established at Worcester, Stellenbosch, the Paarl, and Bloemfontein, all receiving their inspiration from the same source, and many of them employing teachers from America.
Dr. Murray’s inﬂuence was not only that of a great evangelist and devotional writer, but of an eminent educator as well. Though nearing ninety when he died, he was, when I last saw him, still bright and sprightly, his face shining not only with a heavenly light, but with genuine, human good fellowship. The last time I went to South Africa, though I could not visit Wellington, he journeyed to Cape Town on purpose to give an address of welcome at the impromptu convention that was held there, and it was an address as cordial, genial, and witty as one could wish to hear.
From Memories of Many Men in Many Lands: An Autobiography, by Francis Edward Clark