It was thirty-three years ago that I began to know Andrew Murray, thirty-three years by date, though grateful memory would bring it much nearer. I had the good fortune to spend that winter on the shores of the Lake of Geneva. When Christmas time came a small party of us took a rather venturesome tramp over the Simplon Pass. Christmas fell on the Tuesday. By six on the Monday morning our train was carrying us up the Rhone Valley, and it was still early morning when we began our march up the hill road from Brieg. Memory recalls how it was maigre with the monks in the hospice on the summit of the Pass that evening, though they made the travelers welcome to an ample repast; now the deep sleep of the night was broken just before midnight by one of the brothers summoning us to "La Messe, Messieurs." Then the hasty toilette, if such it could be called—a pair of the monks' warm sheepskin boots coming well up the thigh; a traveling rug superadded, wound round and round and made fast with a belt at the waist; and over all an ulster coat. Then away along the cold corridor and down the broad stairs to the chapel within the building, to join with the score of peasants from far and wide in this high solemnity. For was it not the hour of the Saviour's birth?
Two turned back for Montreux next day, and the others of us tramped down through the eerie gorge of Gondo and had some brother with intoxicated donanniers—"Mais c'est la fete de Noel, Messieurs"—at the Italian frontier town, with a domiciliary visit of police next day to put things en rigle.
Conjecture was busy, as we were speeding homeward by the Saint Gothard a day or two later, as to what would be awaiting us at our pension. Christmas abroad had a novelty all its own. The home letters and home gifts from overseas were subjects of eager anticipation, and it was with the liveliest interest that we set ourselves to undo the wrappings. At last all were opened out, and amongst them stood Andrew Murray and Henry Drummond.
Drummond, some eight or ten years before, he and Barbour of Bonskied, had paid a call at our summer location in Pitlochry, and one could recall one's boyish admiration for the tall young student who was already said to be on his way to fame. Today, "Natural Law" was out, and Henry Drummond was famous. The reading of the book was a real delight; but it was Andrew Murray who became, from this day, the more permanent influence. Through the days of that January one followed the devotional chapters of "Abide in Christ." One's spiritual attitude at
the time was not such as could gain full benefit from the book; but it exerted an influence that lasted;, and in better days its successors, one by one, carried the work forward graciously.
Personal introduction to the "prophet"—not a foreteller, for Dr. Murray maintained he had "no gift" in dispensational truth, but preeminently a forth-teller of the divine message—came at a breakfast in the lesser Exeter Hall, London, in the early summer of 1895. The warmth of his greeting, "for the sake of your work," quite took one aback. But it was not until the month of September that there came the privilege of close intimacy. He had had arduous work at Northfield and Chicago, and was to open at Toronto on the Monday evening; he must have a quiet Sunday between. Night had closed in when he stepped from the ferry at the little pier on Lake Simcoe, and with painful steps—for he had contracted acute rheumatism in crossing the Atlantic—made his way up the avenue to the house. The Sunday was an ideal day, and the little tree-sheltered veranda that abutted on the lake was a choice spot for a long, long talk. The great verities of the spiritual life, problems in psychology and practical Christian duty, the state of Christendom, the call of the heathen—such were his themes. And that afternoon, in the airy, shaded drawing room, the children were clambering over his chair. There are those whose books have charmed, and the charm faded when one heard them on the platform; but to hear Andrew Murray was to find a new charm in his books ever after. There are those, again, whose platform presence has power, but the power is gone when one knows them personally. Andrew Murray stood on the platform with the dignity and authority of some ancient seer, and spoke God's message with a power that made it search the heart amazingly; but to know him in private was, I think, best of all. To see how those children drew to him! "And what are you going to be when you grow up, my little man?" And the young rogue—he is in khaki today, and in hospital—fingering the prophet's white tie, proclaimed jauntily—"Guess I'll be a minister!"
Next day, going up to the city, we occupied a banc a deux in the long corridor car, and there was intimate converse all the way. The Glasgow and Rothesay Conventions were to be his programme on his return to the old country, a few weeks thence; and he would know all about the general state of Christian sentiment in Rothesay and in Glasgow beforehand. How could he best speak to those people? What was their spiritual position and need, and what his best line of approach? Evidently, even though distinctly a man with a message, he did not discount the human element in inspiration. He must not receive his message in rapt contemplation only, but must be well informed of the spiritual character of his audience.
His colleague in those convention meetings in Toronto was one who was then a novice in the special truths connected with Keswick, though he did yeoman service for the cause afterward ere he was called hence. If he had the first say in the meeting and Murray followed, all was well; but if Murray went first it was noticeable how largely the novice, following, could rob the preceding message of its pointed effect by his elaborate disquisition. I think Mr. Murray was conscious of the difficulty, but his forbearance and patience were beautiful to see.
One little incident of that campaign comes to mind. We were at the evening meal preceding the last of the services, and the secretary of the local committee was seated next to the chief guest.
"And then, Mr. Murray," he said, in discussing the programme, "you must allow ten minutes for one of us to say a few words as to how deeply we have been indebted to you and Dr. So-and-so."
"My brother," came the answer, with a depreciative hand on the secretary's arm, "say all that to the Lord when I am gone." It was a disclaimer of any vote of thanks, as inappropriate to such meetings, but so exquisitely, so delicately done.
He went on that Thursday night to Montreal to meet his relative, "Ralph Connor," if my memory serves me aright, and on Saturday evening we met again at New York for the week of meetings there. The committee had arranged for the party's entertainment in a high-class hotel; and Murray, characteristically, was distressed over the luxury and the extravagant charges. It was a serious question at first whether he should not propose a change; but there came the reflection that the arrangement had been made in consideration for his rheumatism, the hotel being contiguous to the church, and that the church itself was a wealthy "Knickerbocker" one, well able to bear the expense. Still, there must be no thoughtless'extravagance, and his selection of the less expensive items in the menu was conscientiously exact.
One feature of those days will always be a hallowed memory—the little prayer times with Mr. and Mrs. Murray in their private sitting-room before the meetings and at other hours. He lived the life of prayer that he inculcated, and the special exercise of it came with the utmost naturalness and simplicity and power. There was reality in his praying—reality, and effectual fervor. One recalls how William Penn was struck with the "inwardness and weight" of George Fox's spirit on similar occasions, the reverence and solemnity of his address, the fewness and fulness of his words. "The most awful, living, reverent frame I ever felt or beheld," he declares, "was his in prayer." I think Andrew Murray was spiritually akin to George Fox.
The Toronto colleague had come on to New York-also; but Mr. Moody, who presided at the opening meeting to give Murray his imprimatur, with his usual shrewd insight grasped the situation at once. "They don't want to hear him at all," he was saying brusquely as they came down the aisle together: "they can hear him any day; they want you to bring them face to face with God." In all likelihood he expressed his mind with equal frankness to the colleague concerned. In any case, the grace of Christ was magnified in each of the parties, for at breakfast next morning or at luncheon—the "novice" came to express to Murray his perfect willingness to be in the background and only render service when Mr. Murray felt it advisable to call for his help. And the meetings certainly profited from the modification of the arrangement.
The supreme importance of cultivating fellowship with God was the keynote all through that summer campaign, both in Britain and in America. In our conventions, he averred, too little time was allocated to direct waiting upon God. After the consecration meeting that brought one of the large New York gatherings to a close, I slipped quietly into the church parlors whither Mr. Murray had gone for a special gathering with ministers. Puzzlement and blank hopelessness were on some of the faces. One of them had been recalling the days of comparative leisure in country pastorates; but here in New York, with all their committees and societies and duties innumerable, how could a man find time for the culture of his own spiritual life? "But, my brother, you must find the time," came the answer: "you must tell your people you will do less visiting or less of something else, but that you need to keep your soul in health if you are to be any help to them."
Those were busy days. He was to sail for Europe on the Saturday, and reporters had sent for his revision the extended notes of all his addresses at Northfield, Chicago, and Toronto. So there was plenty to do between the meetings. It was a joy to be able to relieve him of some of this revision for the press. Busy days, but always, he took care, not so busy as to drive out prayer.
One spring there came a letter from South Africa imposing what he called "a somewhat difficult commission." The fact was, he proposed to embark on controversy, but anonymously, as he earnestly desired that it should not divert the public mind from that constant work of spiritual exposition which was his special province. Still, his soul had been grieved by the writings of an eminent theologian who was a specialist in the doctrine of sin, and he was moved to make some reply. Could a publisher be secured who would be content to issue his brochure without even knowing the name of the author? No one was to have the least hint of the authorship, though he might himself disclose the secret in a friendly way to his opponent. The project never materialised; but this sentence from one of the letters regarding it may be taken as a succinct statement of Dr. Murray's position: "I agree with William Law when he states the evil of sin and self as strongly as any man ever could; but on the other hand it appears to me both healthful and Scriptural when he points out that the evil of inbred sin is to be accepted and borne by the believer in the spirit of deep humility and restfulness, and not in that of continual self-scourging and remorse."
In 1901 a larger scheme was propounded, and this reached fruition. His "Key to the Missionary Problem" was in the printer's hands, and he was hasting its publication in order to get the Evangelical Alliance to adopt its scheme for their forthcoming week of prayer; would I see it through the press, and save the time required for proofs passing to and from South Africa?
It was a high privilege, though attended with some difficulties too. For there were points at which compositors were quite unable to decipher his calligraphy, and the proofreader too was often nonplused. Some amusing printers' errors might be quoted, but space forbids.
After those sad days of the Boer War, in which his convictions placed him somewhat at variance with the majority of the British public, and after the nervous breakdown that supervened, he and Mrs. Murray were seated on the stoop of their house one evening. "We are getting too old to work any longer in the world," said she: "I think we'd better go away home to heaven." "You can go if you like, my dear," he answered characteristically; "but I have a great deal of work to do yet before I go."
Her decease came a fortnight, in the dawn of 1905. Her husband, left to work on yet awhile, preached her funeral sermon in the church at Wellington. Other eleven years have been left to him, bringing him to the ripe age of 88, and they have been full of his loved activities—development of educational institutions of a high religious character, books on the life of prayer, labours for the missionary cause. Just a week before news of his death came, one of the English weeklies told of his having been visited lately by a prominent Student's Christian Association worker now in Britain; and there Dr. Murray is represented as saying regarding the present international conflict: "Oh, if you could only bring home to the people what it really means to pray! If only God's people would unite in real prayer for a few minutes each day, what a difference it would make!"
Taken from The Christian Workers Magazine, June, 1917, 791-793.