I have always been intrigued by the name Andrew Murray. How was it that a man honoured and revered in the DRC and in the Afrikaans community in general had such an English name? It was not until last year when I was to take a wedding in Wellington in the Andrew Murray Church that I decided to do some research and find out abut the man in whose pulpit I was to stand. So I am no expert on the subject. I have not read a great deal about him but what I have I have found fascinating and I am indebted to God for pushing me literally into the footsteps of this great man of God whose life story has inspired and encouraged me.
But as I read about him I saw some one like me who had his vulnerabilities and struggles. And that made him so much more attractive as a person and one I could identify with and aspire to be like. His life story has inspired and spurred me on. I can’t tell it all but just give you a few snippets.
1652 – Jan Van Riebeck sets up a refreshment station in the Cape on behalf of the Dutch East India Company.
1795 – The British take over the Cape (for safe keeping) when France occupied the Netherlands.
1803 - It is returned, only to be occupied again in 1806 at the beginning of the Napoleonic wars to protect the sea route to the East.
By this time the trek boers have moved inland away from the restrictions of the Dutch and English colonial authorities. They were a deeply religious God fearing people. But they were in effect semi-literate as they spoke Afrikaans but could no longer speak or read Dutch and so had no access to the Scriptures.
When Lord Charles Somerset became Governor in 1814 he was concerned about the backward state of the average stock farmer (boers) with their homespun religious ideas that focused on the Old Testament and because there was an understanding amongst them that if a slave converted to Christianity they had to be set free, they were resistant to any form of evangelism amongst slaves and the indigenous people of the land.
To his credit Lord Charles Somerset tried to persuade some Dutch missionaries affiliated with the London Mission Society to take charge of some of the Dutch Reformed congregations without much success. One however did – Revd Dr George Thom was pastor of Caledon. Somerset commissioned him when he went on furlough to recruit teachers as well as young Scottish pastors for the Cape. His reasoning was that as they would be Reformed in theology they would be acceptable to members of the DRC.
Dr Thom managed to recruit 11 evangelical pastors from Scotland. The first of them to arrive was Andrew Murray Sr. He spent 10 months in Holland learning Dutch and on arrival in the Cape with Dr Thom was sent to the frontier parish of Graaff-Reinet. He really was thrown in the deep end. But his total reliance on God, plus a wholehearted devotion to his congregation would see him through his first difficult years of adjustment. He also married 16 year old Maria Stegmann from Cape Town in 1825 and this no doubt also helped him settle into his new world.
But in spite of being readily accepted by his frontier congregation, he, like most other pastors at the Cape, was unable to persuade his flock to embrace the New Covenant with the clear commission of preaching the Gospel to all nations.
Andrew Murray Sr. and Maria had three children – John, Andrew and Maria. John would also play significant role in shaping the DRC, and Maria would marry Jan Neetling – who with Nicolaas Hofmeyr and Andrew Murray shaped the mission policy of the DRC.
Andrew was born on the 9th of May 1828 in Graaff-Reinet. Two influences on the Murray children growing up in Graaff-Reinet are worth mentioning. The one was the extended visits of missionaries passing through Graaff-Reinet on their way to or from the interior. The other was their vivid recollection of Friday evenings when their father, without fail, would pray for revival.
Maria gives this first hand account …
He [Andrew Murray Sr.] would shut himself in the study and read accounts of former revivals in Scotland and other countries, and sometimes come out of his study with Gillies collection in his hand and read some account like the Outpouring of the Spirit on the Kirk of Shotts or the Revivals in Kilsyth and Cambuslang. His children will never forget standing outside his study door and listening to the loud crying to God and pleading for an outpouring of His Holy Spirit.'
When John was 12 and Andrew 10 they were sent to Scotland to be educated. During their stay with their uncle Rev John Murray they came into contact with some of the most influential evangelical preachers of the day. William Burns in particular had a deep and lasting influence on Andrew Murray. You can see how God worked in shaping and molding this teenage boy and preparing for what lay ahead.
Both brothers graduated with MAs in 1845 and then spent time in Utrecht in The Netherlands to undertake theological studies and hone up on Dutch. There they met two other theological students with whom they became bosom buddies – Nicolaas Hofmeyr and Jan Neetling who later married Maria their sister. This bond and their shared evangelical background was a significantly used by God in what was to unfold.
It makes one realise the significance of friendships formed in our growing formative years and how God can use them. For those of us now past that stage it is worth reflecting on how we can encourage and invest and affirm these bonds of friendship amongst our children and the young adults we have contact and influence.
Back in the Cape in 1848 John was sent to the church Burgersdorp. Andrew was only 20 and so was too young to be allowed to be sent to an established congregation so the Governor, Sir Harry Smith circumvent the rules so sent him to evangelise the people between the Orange and Vaal Rivers – the Free State. (The British had annexed it in 1848). 12,000 boers were scattered over this vast area and Andrew was based in the small town of Bloemfontein, which had two Dutch families and forty English ones. He traveled extensively even going beyond the Vaal.
Significantly while on his first preaching tour he contracted a virus which led to the death of his deacon who accompanied him and left him with painful sensations in his arms, hand and back that would leave him without the ability to hold a pen for long. In later years he would need to dictate his sermons and books to his wife Emma or one of his daughters.
Being the only pastor for the whole of the Orange River Sovereignty as well as the Transvaal, Andrew soon found himself having to adopt a leadership role in Sovereignty affairs. During the widespread unrest of 1851, which came about because of a dispute over boundaries that separated the various Basotho chiefs from each other, and them from their white neighbours, Andrew's speedy intervention helped save considerable bloodshed. What is more, he helped negotiate a treaty between the Voortrekker leader Andries Pretorius and the British Government that led to the signing of the Sand River Convention on 16 January 1852.
The Voortrekkers across the Vaal had their own recognised State and were able to govern themselves. Two years later, the British Government would also grant independence to the Orange River Sovereignty. Once again, Andrew would be called upon to play a leadership role. So we have a very gifted and well respected young man.
He was chosen to represent the interests of those living in the Sovereignty and sent to England in 1854. On his return in 1855 he met Emma Rutherfoord during his stop-over in Cape Town. In spite of their short acquaintance, they were married on 2 July the following year.
But Andrew started to be affected by the flattery he was receiving in relation to his leadership and pastoral abilities. In his letters to John, he constantly complains about the outbreak of pride, which he regards as a messenger from Satan.
Nel comments that his concern was not just a matter of undue introspection. The problem was real. So real, in fact, that he regarded it as the reason for the loss of his voice over a period of two years in the early 1880s. After three weeks of unrelenting prayer to be purged of all pride and his unhealthy self confidence in his own ability, he was miraculously healed.
From Emma's letters to her eldest sister in India, we are able to gauge the extent of Andrew's popularity. Although she hints in her letter that it was not affecting him, it obviously did.
I am rather glad not to be in town at first. I should not like him [Andrew] to become what is called a popular preacher… or oratory idol. When he was down here, I did not like the way old and young flattered him. I think he thought it great tosh himself and was glad to get away from it.
So we have a gifted young leader of others who seized the day but struggled with pride.
Does this not remind us of the encounter Jesus has with the rich young ruler in Luke 18:18ff (also Matt 19:16ff and Mark 10:17ff). One full of ability and confidence and with a passionate heart and desire to serve God? He had get rid of his wealth before he could follow Jesus. Andrew had to deal with his pride. It was a struggle but he did.
One of the things Andrew learned while in Bloemfontein, was to keep his sermons simple, logical and unadorned, so that they could be understood by the farming community who had only a basic understanding of Dutch.
But it appears that he often felt frustrated by this self-imposed discipline and was inclined to fall into the habit of expounding more difficult concepts to Emma. Fortunately for Andrew, Emma was a very down-to-earth critic of sermons and did not hesitate to keep him on the straight and narrow, as the following extract from a letter to her sister shows:
I tell him it is good for him that he has a simple congregation for whom it is an effort to simplify his ideas and bring them down to their comprehension. Now they are plain and practical and shorn of the new, varied and perhaps a little wild interpretations and symbolic meanings he favors me with.
The discipline of having to keep his sermons simple would make Andrew one of the most sought-after preachers of his day. But there was something missing. He fine tuned his sermons and delivered them with passion. But something was lacking. It was the power of the Holy Spirit to save and transform.
No matter how hard he thumped the pulpit or flayed his arms about, it resulted in only a trifling amount of fruit compared with the bounty he had witnessed in connection with the preaching of William Burns while a young lad in Scotland.
Years later, while giving his testimony at the Keswick Convention of 1895, he would recall how he wrestled with this problem while in Bloemfontein.
The first ten years of my spiritual life were manifestly spent on the lower stage. I was a minister, I may say, as zealous and as earnest and as happy in the work as anyone — as far as love of the work was concerned. Yet all the time my heart was burning with an inexpressible dissatisfaction and restlessness ... I remember how I used to sit and think in my little room in Bloemfontein, 'What is the matter? Here I am knowing that God has justified me in the blood of Christ, but I have no power for service.
One of Andrew's self-acknowledged problems was his tendency to rush ahead of God and to serve Him in his own strength.
Another, was that he lacked a vibrant prayer life. In the following letter to his father he not only confesses this weakness, but also goes on to acknowledge the spiritual barrenness that existed within his congregation. The underlying message, of course, was that his preaching was not sufficiently anointed with the power of the Spirit to be able to pierce the hearts of the unsaved.
Most cordially do I sympathize with Papa in the wishes he expresses that the Spirit should be present in connection with our preaching. And yet I do not know what hampers me so dreadfully in striving to believe in prayer or even to pray earnestly. I begin to fear that the state of a great majority of members is much sadder than I at first realized. And I feel in no small measure that nothing but God's mighty Spirit is able to conquer the deep enmity of the unconverted heart.'
So here is a man who tends to rush ahead of God and lacked a vibrant prayer life. Do you see why I identify with him and find his story so compelling?
In 1860 Andrew Murray was called to Worcester. His arrival coincided with the first ecumenical conference to be held in the Cape Colony, which was held in Worcester. While dominated by the DRC other churches – the Scottish Presbyterian Church, the Wesleyan Church and the Rhenish Mission Society were also in attendance.
A focus and passion for revival was a keynote of the conference. Andrew Murray Sr. it is reported was so over come when speaking about this that he burst into tears. Talk of the revival breaking out in America was reaching the Cape and a first hand account was shared at the conference by a Dr Adamson who described how it started with a tiny spark in a prayer meeting of only two or three, and how it rapidly spread and engulfed 100s and 1,000s including Anglo-and -German-Americans as well as Catholics.
Some trace the beginning of the Cape revival to the prayer of Andrew Murray at the conference – described as so full of power and emotion that people came under a deep conviction of sin. There was a strong call for corporate prayer for revival. Corporate prayer meetings was a feature of the revival in the Cape.
Let me quote from Nel’s book (page 84):
During 1860 and 1861 there appears to have been two distinct waves of the Holy Spirit. The first took place between May and December 1860. ... In Calvinia an inexplicable urge suddenly developed to form prayer meetings. This urge was particularly remarkable for this parish, as it had never shown any inclination to meet for prayer during the years that Hofmeyr had been its pastor.
While the tide of the Holy Spirit would swell gently in some towns, in others — like Worcester — the wave would break without warning. It would sweep through vast areas of farmland convicting Afrikaners , Coloreds and African workers who knew little of the gospel, except what they had heard from their employers.
By the end of December 1860, reports of the revival in the Western Cape had spread throughout the colony, resulting in an exerted effort to pray down God's blessing. Congregations that had not experienced His manifold presence, simply did not want God to pass them by. Others, like Paarl, were openly jealous and decided to redouble their efforts.
Sensing the desperate need of the colonists to experience God in their midst, the Evangelical Alliance called for a week of prayer between 5 and 13 January, 1861. During this week, the Cape was truly on its knees. God responded by sending a second wave of blessing that spread throughout the Cape Colony, including a few congregations beyond its borders.
By the close of 1861, the Colony had been saturated with the news of revival outbreaks in various towns and districts. Everyone heard about and everyone had an opinion.
As one would expect! It is a fascinating story and part of our history here in the Cape. But let me just tell you what happened in Worcester.
Andrew Murray was certainly an anointed preacher and while one must presume this prepared the ground for revival it actually started on a farm outside Worcester on the Breede River called Aan den Doorns owned by David Naude. His son Jan, his cousin a Miss Van Blerk and Saul Pieterse and coloured farm labourer known as Saul die Profeet met to pray for revival. The state of the state of the coloured workers rife with the effects of alcoholism was what moved Miss Van Blerk in particular to pray. She was so distressed that she spent a week in continuous prayer. Then one evening, without prior indications, the Holy Spirit descended on the meeting and all pandemonium broke out. She ran from the meeting hall and when she returned later the coloured farm workers came out singing God’s praise to greet her. All on the farm were saved.
Andrew Murray arrived at the farm to call the meeting to order but failed. The response to his call for order was everyone bursting into simultaneous pleadings for forgiveness and mercy.
The revival then spread to the village and happened not in the church but in the hall where, one Sunday evening young people came together to pray. The leader of the meeting was a young man called J.C. de Vries. He described what happened.
Nel (pg 103)
On a certain Sunday evening there were gathered in a little hall some sixty young people. I was leader of the meeting, which commenced with a hymn and a lesson from God's Word, after which I engaged in prayer. After three or four others had (as was customary) given out a verse of a hymn and offered prayer, a Colored girl of about fifteen years of age, in service of a farmer from Hex River, rose at the back of the hall and asked if she might propose a hymn. At first I hesitated, not knowing what the meeting would think, but better thoughts prevailed and I replied, Yes.
She gave out her hymn-verse and prayed in moving tones. While she was praying, we heard as it were a sound in the distance, which came nearer and nearer, until the hall seemed to be shaken, and with one or two exceptions, the whole meeting began to pray — the majority in audible voice, but some in whispers. Nevertheless, the noise made by the concourse was deafening.
A feeling which I cannot describe took possession of me. Even now, forty-three years after these occurrences, the events of that never-to-be-forgotten night pass before my mind's eye like a soul-stirring panorama. I feel again as I then felt, and cannot refrain from pushing my chair backwards and thanking the Lord fervently for his mighty deeds.
At that time Rev. A. Murray was minister of Worcester. He had preached that evening in the English language. When the service was over, an elder [Mr. Jan Rabie] passed the door of the hall, heard the noise, peeped in, and then hastened to call Mr. Murray, returning presently with him. Mr. Murray came forward to the table where I knelt praying, touched me, and made me understand that he wanted me to rise. He then asked me what had happened. I related everything to him. He then walked down the hall for some distance and called out, as loudly as he could, People, silence! But the praying continued.
In the meantime I too kneeled down again. It seemed to me that if the Lord was coming to bless us, I should not be upon my feet but on my knees. Mr. Murray then called again aloud, People, I am your minister sent from God, silence! But there was no stopping the noise. No one heard him, but all continued praying and calling on God for mercy and pardon. Mr. Murray then returned to me, and told me to start the hymn-verse commencing 'Help de ziel die raadloos schreit' (Aid the soul that helpless cries). I did so, but the emotions were not quieted, and the meeting went on praying. Mr. Murray then prepared to depart, saying, 'God is a God of order, and here everything is confusion.' With that, he left the hall.
It took six months for Andrew to get it. His father, Andrew Murray Sr. visited from Graaff-Reinet to experience first hand what he had prayed for all his life and never seen. He is recorded as saying,“Andrew, my son, I have longed for such a time as these which the Lord has let you have.”
Andrew then hit his straps as far as his preaching was concerned. He traveled extensively preaching about the revival as far as Graaff-Reinet and Cape Town. Here is a description from the Rev Henry Taylor the Presbyterian Minister in Wellington.
When preaching or conducting a service, his whole being is thrown into the task and he glows with a fervency of spirit, which it seems impossible for human flesh to sustain. Audiences bend before the sweeping rain of his words like willows before the gale. The heart within the hearer is bowed and the intellect is awed. Andrew Murray's oratory is of the kind to which men willingly go into captivity."
It is interesting to note that 30 years later Andrew would change his mind about the type of preaching required both before and during a revival. He noted that revival preaching had been chiefly aimed at conversions. But that this added believers to churches where believers were not living on “the high Christian plain” (as he put it). And before long the new convert would sink to the average standard of religious life.
Here is what he has to say about this type of preaching:
A revival of holiness is what we need. We need a preaching about Christ's claim on us that will lead us to live entirely for Him and His kingdom. We need an attachment of love to Him that will make His fellowship our highest joy. We need a faith in his ability to free us from sin's dominion that will enable us to obey His commandments in all things. We need a yielding to the Holy Spirit that will cause us to be led by Him in our entire daily walk.
In his book, Abide in Christ, he writes this …
In conclusion, I ask to be permitted to give one word of advice to my reader. It is this. It needs time to grow into Jesus the Vine. Do not expect to abide in Him unless you will give Him that time. It is not enough to read God's Word or meditations as here offered, and when we think we have hold of the thoughts and have asked God for His blessing, to go out in the hope that the blessing will abide. No, it needs day-by-day time with Jesus and with God.”
Andrew went on to write many devotional books. But the irony of this is that …
We have one who prayed for revival and the empowerment of the Spirit and then resisted it when it came.
We have a writer who could not write but had to dictate his books and sermons to his wife and daughters.
And we have a preacher who could not speak for a period of two years.
But is it also not significant that revival began on that farm Aan den Doorns when a small group of people (three) were moved by the appalling social conditions of the time and cried out to the Lord for mercy. And is it not just like God to use the prayer hymn given out by an unnamed young coloured girl – one on the margins of society – to release the outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit and spark a revival.
God used Andrew mightily as pastor, preacher and writer. He stands as an example to us of a life surrendered to God with all his gifts and talents, his failings and foibles.
God is sovereign and hears the cry of his people whatever status the world gives them. He used Andrew Murray. He responded to the cries of Miss van Blerk, her cousin David Naude, and Saul Pieterse – Saul die Profeet. The humble but bold offering of an unnamed young girl on the margins of society.
Is it not our prayer that God would use us too, stir up our compassion, and employ all our gifts and talents, even using our failings and foibles.
Olea Nel, South Africa’s forgotten revival, xulonpress
Andrew Murray, Absolute Surrender, Bridge-Logo
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