Compiled mainly from articles by Francis E. Clark, D. D., in The Independent and by Miss A. P. Ferguson in The Huguenot Seminary Annual. The photographs were kindly loaned by Mrs. H. B. Allen of Meriden, Conn.
Every part of South Africa has felt the influence of the Murray family, from the Zambezi and beyond to Table Bay. Every church calls them blessed, while the Dutch Reformed Church has been rejuvenated and actually transformed by their influence. Now for many years the Christian world has been receiving spiritual light from the “Dark Continent” through the devotional writings of Andrew Murray the Second.
But to begin with Andrew Murray the First. I say Andrew Murray the First, for there is now Andrew Murray the Second, the most famous of the succession, whose devotional books are read every day in such a multitude of homes, and Andrew the Third, who has devoted his life to the natives of Nyassaland. Several Andrews the Fourth are on the way, if I am not mistaken, though they are not yet out of knickerbockers.
Seventy-five years ago the Dutch Reformed Church of South Africa, becoming alarmed at the spread of rationalism and indifferentism in its midst, and, distrusting the clergymen that came from Holland, most of whom were avowed rationalists, sent to Scotland for some godly and learned young ministers who might break the bread of life unto the Boers in the great continent which they had chosen for their home. Most fortunately for South Africa one of those chosen for this great work of spiritual nation building was a young man, Murray by name—no other than Andrew Murray the First. It had not been in the past annals a distinguished family as the world counts distinction. The father was a farmer, and the grandfather, and it was not a luxurious living that they wrung from the unwilling soil of Scotia. But as God counts distinction it must have been a famous family, for never was the promise to “the third and fourth generation” more literally fulfilled. One of the yeomen ancestors gave to his descendants this verse, which has been the covenant promise of the South African branch of the family:
“As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the Lord; my Spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed's seed, saith the Lord, from henceforth and forever.”
Andrew Murray the First came to Cape Town about the year 1820, and was very soon assigned to the pastorate of the important church in Graaf Reinet, then, as now, one of the most important towns of Cape Colony. But before he started for his new pastorate, which then involved a serious journey of several weeks by horse or bullock cart from Cape Town, a romantic event occurred, which was destined to have an influence incalculable upon the destinies of the Murray family of South Africa. This event was nothing else than a case of genuine love at first sight. The young dominie, while in church at Cape Town (whether in the pulpit or the pew deponent saith not), was struck by the fresh and lovely face of a young Dutch girl of Huguenot extraction. He made inquiries, found that she was as good as she was pretty, and (we pass over the easily supplied preliminaries) carried her off to the Graaf Reinet parsonage, his sixteen-year-old bride. Before she was seventeen she was the mother of John, afterward Prof. John Murray of Stellenbosch, a revered and beloved professor of theology, recently deceased. Then followed in rapid succession sixteen other children, of whom I think twelve lived to grow up. The following is an incomplete roster:
Andrew the Second, famous now for his saintly life and writings.
William, the greatly beloved pastor of Worcester, Cape Colony.
Maria, the wife of Pastor Neethling of Stellenbosch, South Africa.
Charles, honored as was his father, whom he succeeded in Graaf Reinet.
Jemima, now Mrs. Louw, wife of a minister and mother of other ministers.
Isabella (Mrs. Hoffmeyer), a name much revered in South Africa.
James, a farmer brother, in charge of the old homestead at Graaf Reinet.
George, the pastor of another important church of Cape Colony.
Helen, the efficient principal of a school for young ladies at Graaf Reinet.
Eliza (another Mrs. Neethling), a widow, who has another school.
Our space will not allow us to call the roll of the third generation. If we could do so more than a hundred grandchildren would respond, many of whom are active and earnest ministers or missionaries or ministers' wives. Each married child of Andrew the First has blessed the world with about a dozen children, and some with more. Thus John has had sixteen, Andrew eleven, William twelve, Mrs. Neethling eleven, Charles fourteen, and George fifteen. An example this for the puny, degenerate families of the present in old England and New England alike, where a little brood of two is sometimes counted two too many.
Even the fourth generation already has not a few representatives, and all with their faces Zionward.
But to return to the old Dutch parsonage of Graaf Reinet, to which Andrew Murray the First brought his sixteen-year-old bride when the century was young. Never were children more fortunate in their mother than the numerous Murray children. Not that this is particularly to their credit, perhaps; but it was greatly to their advantage Hers was one of those sweet, persuasive natures which mold and guide and bless without seeming to know it themselves, certainly without conscious effort. When asked how it was that her children had all turned out so well: “How did you bring up such a wonderful family?” she answered, “Oh, I don't know; I didn't do anything.” But everyone else knew, if she did not. She just lived herself the life she wanted her boys and girls to live. Her life was hid with Christ's in God, and they through her saw the beauty of holiness. Much of the mystic element which appears in the life and writings of her famous son was undoubtedly derived from his mother, who, while in the world, was not altogether of it.
If the Murray children were fortunate in their mother, they were scarcely less fortunate in their home. Imagine a beautiful oasis in a stony, forbidding desert, and you have a mental picture of Graaf Reinet, where they were all born and brought up. A fertilizing stream flows through the town, making every street green with trees and every garden to laugh with luxuriant bloom. Around it tower the curious, square-topped hills, typical of South Africa, and on every side is the desert. Perhaps the finest garden in Graaf Reinet is that of the old Dutch parsonage. In this parsonage all the Murray children were born, and in this garden they all grew up. Says Mrs. Neethling, the eldest daughter:
“The chief characteristic of the household at Graaf Reinet was reverence. We all reverenced God and God's Book and God's day. The children reverenced their parents, and the servants reverenced their master and mistress. We reverenced God's day by keeping it strictly. We did not do our own deeds or think our own thoughts. The meat for the Sunday dinner was cooked on Saturday, the raisins for the “yellow rice” (a kind of curry which is a favorite Sunday dish among the Boers) were stoned on Saturday. The grapes were picked and the house swept and the boots were blackened the day before, and when Sunday came we all, down to the seventeenth little toddler, expected to go to church—all the older children three times a day under the blistering summer sun (and it knows how to blister in Graaf Reinet), as well as when the cooler breezes blew."
But we are especially interested in one of the boys that grew up in Graaf Reinet garden, Andrew Murray the Second. He was born on May 9, 1828. When he came to sufficient years he was sent to Scotland, with his brother John, for his education, where they took their degree in Aberdeen in 1844, graduating in the arts and then in theology. Then they went to Holland for a year or two at Utrecht to perfect themselves in the Dutch language and complete their theological course. Andrew was a mere beardless boy when he first returned to Africa, only twenty years old, and still more youthful in appearance. He was sent as a missionary to the Orange Free State and the Transvaal, a little parish about twice the size of England. Still it was large enough for a boy. And well did this beardless boy cultivate it. “Why, they have sent us a girl to preach to us,” said one of the old Dutch farmers. But fragile as his appearance then was, there was no end to the endurance of this young preacher. He would go off for weeks at a time on horseback, holding services in some convenient centre on the Veldt, to which the Boers would come from scores and even hundreds of miles around. A temporary church of reeds would be erected, backed and surrounded by hundreds of the big Dutch farm wagons. In this the boy preacher would discourse with all the fire and fervency and spiritual power which so live and breathe in his books. He was called upon to marry couples by the score and on one occasion for six weeks one hundred babies every Sunday were brought to him for baptism. In these rude reed churches he preached some of the sermons which have since been put into books. [For example,] Mr. Murray's interest in the children led to his writing one of his first books in Dutch—“Wat Zal dit Kind Zijo". (What shall this child be?) It consisted of thirty-one meditations, one for each day of the month, a gathering up of the teachings of his baptism sermons. The book was re-written in English many years later, and appeared as “The Children for Christ.”
Seven years of this incessant work exhausted Mr. Murray's strength; he was still further reduced by fever, and returned home to his mother at Graaf Reinet so weak and ill that they feared for his life; but through God's grace and the loving care of the home friends he was restored to health.
He was married in 1856 to Miss Emma Rutherfoord, the daughter of the Hon. H. E. Rutherfoord of Cape Town, and the possibilities of his life and power for usefulness were more than doubled. Their interest in the young people led to the establishing of the Grey College at Bloemfontein, and for a time they took a number of the boarders into their own home. Here Mr. Murray heard Mrs. Allison, a missionary's wife in Natal, tell the story of twelve natives whom she and her husband had taken into their home for training, all of whom had been converted. It was a new thought to Mr. Murray that a boarding school might become a nursery for Christ, and from that time there was a new interest in those under his care, and he had the joy of seeing some of them take their stand for God.
In 1860 Mr. Murray accepted a call to Worcester, eighty miles from Cape Town, and in May of that year the revival wave which began in America reached Africa and broke out first in the Worcester congregation. One who was present writes: “Never will the scenes of those heart-stirring days be forgotten by those who lived through them. Mr. Murray's heart was full of joy and thanksgiving, though often exhausted by exciting meetings and a desire to control all to the glory of God.”
While at Worcester Mr. Murray was called to be moderator of the Synod and was designated the “Youthful Moderator.” He has been reelected many times, and came in later years to be called “Father Andrew.” The years at Worcester were bright and beautiful and there was much precious fruit of his ministry. Then he accepted a call to Cape Town, and spent there seven of the most difficult years of his life. Three Dutch churches, with three ministers preaching in rotation, gave no feeling of ownership; the field was so large and the work so great that there was always much more to be done than could be accomplished. The strain of the seven years in Cape Town affected Mr. Murray's health. He made the condition of his remaining in Cape Town his having his own church, which was not granted. This decided him to accept a call to Wellington, forty-five miles from Cape Town, in 1871, though it seemed at the time a smaller sphere of work. Here some of the thoughts that had been crystallizing since the old wilderness days became living realities.
Miss Catherine Elliott, a friend who had been to America, gave him the Memoir of Mary Lyon. Mr. and Mrs. Murray were spending a summer holiday at Kalk Bay in December, 1872. They had lost a little daughter of five and an infant son, and, as Mrs. Murray expressed it, God had emptied their hands that he might fill them for the children of others. They read together the Memoir of Mary Lyon, and rejoiced in her working out in America of a problem that had long before been laid upon them. Mr. Murray and Miss Elliott wrote to Mt. Holyoke for a teacher who would help to establish a similar institution in Wellington. They waited and prayed and asked friends to pray, and in answer to their prayers Miss Ferguson and Miss Bliss arrived in November, 1873, to begin the Huguenot Seminary, established as a monument to the memory of the Huguenot refugees who had come to Africa nearly two hundred years before.
During the first term of its existence there was a revival among the pupils, all of the forty boarders coming to the Lord. During the twenty-five years of its history the Lord has been very gracious, bringing to Himself the large majority of the fifteen hundred who have passed through it as boarders.
When Stellenbosch a year later asked for a teacher to do a similar work there, Mr. Murray was just as much interested as he had been for Wellington, and again at Worcester a year later. It was the interest of God's kingdom he was seeking, not simply of his own people. This has been true, as he has been asked to establish branch seminaries in different parts of the country. And when in 1898 the most advanced department of the Seminary developed into a college he recognized the new possibilities of the work and gave himself heartily to it.
In 1877 a Mission Institute was established at Wellington under the care of Rev. George Ferguson. Here a fine company of young men have been trained as missionaries. A large number of young men have gathered at Wellington for the advantages of the Boys' High School, and many of these have gone out with an earnest purpose in life. Thus a large number of young people have come under Mr. Murray's care, among whom he delights to dwell, and in whose life and work he takes the keenest interest. Not a year passes without deep religious interest among the young people.
At Mr. Murray's invitation many of God's people meet in convention at Wellington each year for the deepening of the spiritual life, and these have been times of great refreshing. After a time of special blessing in his church Mr. Murray asked his people, as a thank-offering, to give him up for a portion of each year for evangelistic services. This was granted, and he has made frequent journeys through South Africa, bringing wonderful blessing to pastors and people.
In 1895 Mr. and Mrs. Murray visited England, Scotland, America, and Holland, meeting many of God's people in convention and in conferences at Keswick and Northfield.
Mr. Murray's interest and labors in connection with missionary work have been enough to engross the life of one man. As a member of the mission committee of the Dutch Reformed Church he has kept in living, loving, prayerful touch with every missionary in the field, and has been especially the life of the Dutch branch of the Livingstonia Mission at Lake Nyassa. As president of the South African General Mission he has been in constant consultation with regard to the different branches of this work, and his wise counsels have helped to make the Mission a great power for good.
Mr. Murray was laid aside from active pastoral work for nearly three years, a weakness of the throat preventing public speaking. This seemed to be God's way of leading him to become a writer. He is now well known to the Christian world through his books. In these his life has reached out in a great yearning to bring to God's people everywhere the fullness of His wonderful love. The living truth has first become a part of himself, and been lived in his life, and then transmuted into blessing for others. The following notes may be of interest:
“Abide in Christ” was written in Dutch during Mr. Murray's pastorate at Worcester and was later translated into English. This book at once had a large circulation and introduced Mr. Murray to the Christian world.
In the summer of 1898 a brown vine stump lay constantly on his study table; it was often used as an illustration to those who were interested. “The Mystery of the True Vine,” dedicated to Christian Endeavorers all over the world, grew out of this study of the vine. When it was published Mr. Murray had already another lesson from the vine and wrote “The Fruit of the Vine.”
“The School of Prayer” was written in Dutch about 1880, suggested by Luke xi. 1, “Lord, teach us to pray.” It was the subject of a convention held at the town of George. Chapters were written at the farmhouses on the way to and from George or between the meetings.
“The Holiest of All” is a simple commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, intended for the Dutch farmers who did not read much, and were not able often to get to church. Mr. Murray and Rev. P. D. Rossouw were on a tour holding evangelistic services in the Colony and Free State. A conversation with a farmer near Tarkastad suggested the need of something of the kind, and at the next stopping place the book was begun.
“Be Perfect” was begun on the last day of a holiday at Kalk Bay. He felt burdened with the message and obliged to write under any circumstances. Sitting by the window overlooking the sea the first chapter was written amid all the confusion of the packing preparatory for the journey.
“Waiting on God” was the watchword of conventions in England and America.
“The Ministry of Intercession” grew out of a series of conferences held in the Free State, Transvaal, Natal, and Cape Colony, at which the subject opened out wonderfully, giving us the choicest of his messages.
The second week of May, 1898, was a jubilee week at Wellington. May 9 was Mr. Murray's seventieth birthday, and the fiftieth anniversary of his ordination as a minister of the gospel, and the Wellington people remembered also his twenty-six years of faithful ministry to them. Over two hundred telegrams of congratulation came during that week from the governor and his staff and many friends in all parts of the country. Mr. Murray's message on his birthday gives the secret of it all. A telegram to the Cape Times is as follows:—
“After a feeling acknowledgment of the many good wishes Mr. Murray said that the lesson of half a century of ministerial work to him was that God had for every man a sphere of work and a plan of work. The more unreservedly a man submitted to God's will the more completely God's work was wrought. He emphasized this by a reference to various periods of his own career at Bloemfontein, Worcester, Cape Town, and Wellington in the ministry, in connection with education and in writing for the religious press. He urged that throughout his life any success was secured only by following God's guidance.”
Taken from Northfield Echoes, (East Northfield: MA, 1899), Vol. 6, 1899, 27-36.