A godly parentage is a costly boon. Its blessing not only rests upon the children of the first family, but has often been traced in many successive generations.
— Andrew Murray
The paternal ancestors of Andrew Murray were Aberdeen-shire farmers. His father, his grandfather and his great-grandfather all bore the name of Andrew Murray. The great-grandfather occupied the sheep-farm of Lofthills in the district of Buchan, which had been held by the family for several generations. These Murrays belonged for the most part to the Old Light Presbyterians (Auld Lichts), a Church which in the eighteenth century counted many godly people in its ranks. Of one of the old farmers of Lofthills, who was exceedingly deaf, it is told that he would wander about the hills of the sheep-farm, praying unconsciously aloud for his family and for his friends, and that almost all for whom this old saint used to intercede became in the end decided Christian. Andrew Murray of Lofthills married a certain Isabella Henderson, known as the “Maiden of Yokie’s Hill,” whose family claimed descent from the famous seventeenth-century divine and reformer, Alexander Henderson, chief author of the “Solemn League and Covenant.”
Andrew Murray, the grandfather, being one of several sons, removed from Lofthills to the mill of Clatt, thus relinquishing sheep-farming for the humbler occupation of milling. Owing to the distress which was prevalent at the end of the eighteenth century in consequence of the Napoleonic wars, the family was frequently reduced to great straits, and the flour would then be carefully collected from the floor of the mill, in order to provide the hungry mouths of the children with bread. Andrew Murray of Clatt was nevertheless a man of considerable force of character, with an education beyond what was common at the time, and a reputed taste for poetry. Of his piety there was no question. When he lay upon his deathbed, he was overheard praying in the silence of the night for each of his children by name; and this so impressed the eldest son, John, then a lad of twelve, that he there and then decided to give himself to the work of the ministry. The father was a comparatively young man when he died in 1796, and he left his wife and children in sadly reduced circumstances, cherishing nevertheless the confident hope that his and their God would not permit them to suffer want, but that his sons and daughters would yet lead honourable and useful Christian lives. His wife, Isobel Milne, was a woman of great beauty and sweetness of character. She survived her husband for twenty-six years, and saw her children grow to manhood and womanhood to fulfil all the cherished hopes and expectations of their departed father.
Among the children of Andrew Murray of Clatt were Anne, John, Elizabeth and Andrew. John, the eldest son, and uncle of the subject of these memoirs, succeeded by patient endeavour, and through the kindly aid of an unmarried uncle, in realizing his ambition to enter the sacred ministry. After a course of study at Marischal College, Aberdeen, he graduated M.A. in 1806, showing such aptitude for mathematics that he was offered a colonial professorship. He persisted, however, in his aim of becoming a preacher of the Gospel, passed through the divinity course at the university of Edinburgh, was licensed in due time, and then acted as tutor in the family of Sir James Nasmyth. After ordination he laboured for two years as an assistant minister in Dundee, and in 1816 was inducted to the influential charge of Trinity Chapel-of-Ease (now Trinity United Free Church) in Aberdeen (Chapels-of-Ease were congregations of the Church of Scotland that were not dependent upon endowments, but were erected and supported by voluntary effort, and possessed the right of calling their own ministers). Twelve years later he became minister of the North Church in the same city, and this remained the scene of his labours so long as he was connected with the Church of the Establishment. At the Disruption, in 1843, John Murray was one of those who left the Established Church, and the Free North Church, which the seceding congregation erected for itself, was the first of Free Church edifices to arise in Aberdeen. For his distinguished services to the cause of religion and education, and as a testimony to the esteem in which he was held for his lofty Christian character, his Alma Mater conferred on him, in 1856, the degree of doctor of divinity, honoris causa. He died in 1861, and an obituary notice of the Free Church Record summed up his character thus : “Calm, discriminating, scholarly and undemonstratively heroic, the veteran Murray of Aberdeen has gone to his grave as a shock of corn cometh in its season.”
The uncle who befriended John Murray also took to his home the younger sister, Elizabeth, who remained with her uncle until her marriage with Mr. Robertson, the Congregational minister of Crichie in Aberdeenshire. Mr. Robertson, by his first wife, was the great-grandfather of Professor Robertson Smith, of Aberdeen and Cambridge. Elizabeth Robertson died at an early age in Scotland, and her husband then emigrated with the children to Canada, becoming the ancestor of a large family of Robertsons whose names have become household words in the Colony across the Atlantic. One of the daughters, Margaret Murray Robertson, was the authoress of Christie Redfern’s Troubles and other stories of a religious tendency, which had a great vogue in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Great literary gifts were also developed by one of the grandsons, Charles W. Gordon, better known, under his pen-name of “Ralph Connor,” as the author of The Sky Pilot and many other tales which describe the life of the Great North-West.
The third Andrew Murray, father of the subject of this biography, was ten years younger than his brother John, to whose encouragement and assistance it was largely due that he was able to complete his studies, and to obtain the status of licentiate of the Church of Scotland. Young Andrew was anxious to become a missionary — a desire which was probably stimulated, if not aroused, by the earnest advocacy of his elder brother, who was a powerful pleader for missions at a time when the cause counted but few enthusiastic supporters. But the mother was very loth to part from her younger and favourite son, and professed to be in great fear that, if he became a missionary, he would infallibly be eaten by cannibals. Love for his mother and deference to her wishes led Andrew to refuse an offer to proceed to St. John’s, Newfoundland. But when in 1821 he received an invitation to the Cape, the need of that Colony seemed to be so urgent that he could not find it in his heart to dismiss the appeal, while the possibility of doing something on behalf of the natives, and thus taking a small share in the missionary enterprise, was an additional motive to consider this as a divine call.
The invitation to South Africa came about in the following way. The Rev. Dr. George Thom, Dutch Reformed minister of the congregation of Caledon in South Africa, was in Britain on furlough in 1821, when he was commissioned by the then Governor of the Cape, Lord Charles Somerset, to obtain young ministers to fill the vacant charges, and teachers to instruct the rising generation, in the southern Colony. Dr. Thom, who was fully alive to the needs of the country, lost no time in commencing his quest. One of the first men to offer was Andrew Murray, as Dr. Thom relates in the following letter, dated London, 8th January, 1821 —
The Rev. George Thom to Lord Charles Henry Somerset.
My Lord, — I have the pleasure to state, for your Lordship's information, that the Rev. Prof. MacGill of the University of Glasgow has replied to the letter addressed to him on the selection of some ministers of the Established Church of Scotland, and the Professor states that he will with much delight communicate with several young ministers, who are gentlemen of excellent private character, of good talents, and of known loyal principles. I am looking for a second letter.
In the meantime Prof. Bentley, of the King's College, Aberdeen, hearing of the necessities of the Dutch colonists, and of the kind intentions of Government to supply their wants, has written me two letters, offering the services of the Rev. Andrew Murray, Master of Arts, a clergyman of about thirty years of age, of established character and of good abilities: the necessary testimonials from the professors of languages and of divinity in the University will be forwarded to me immediately.
I am much rejoiced that there is a prospect of having the wants of the Dutch colonial Churches supplied, and the more, as besides the charges of Somerset and Worcester being vacant, there is every human possibility that several old Churches will soon be left destitute of Christian instruction. By a letter from Cape Town I find that Mr. Fleck has been declared by the physicians unfit ever to preach again. Mr. [von] Manger also has been long afflicted with disease and is advanced in life, and several of the country ministers are aged, and the minister of Paarl was able to preach only a few times during eight or ten months. I have fully stated to the gentlemen everything connected with the Churches agreeable to the colonial Church regulations, and your Lordship's opinion respecting spending a few months in Holland.
It is a subject of much gratification to me that your Lordship manifests so much paternal care for the advancement of religion in the Colony, and I am sure it will add much to the pleasure which the Colonists will feel on your Lordship's return to assume again the government of the Colony, that you will be able to announce a speedy supply of good ministers for the Dutch Churches being at hand...
When Andrew Murray received the South African appointment his mother lay upon her deathbed, and in order to spare her the children refrained from telling her of the younger son’s impending departure. When the hour of parting came, John, the elder brother, who was also at his dying mother’s bedside, accompanied Andrew to the highway where the Aberdeen coach passed. Here the brothers knelt in prayer to commend each other and their dear ones to God, and before they parted sang together, “O God of Bethel, by whose hand Thy people still are fed.” It was a final farewell, for Andrew never revisited his native land.
From Scotland, after ordination by the Presbytery of Aberdeen, the young minister went to Holland, where he remained for ten months in order to acquire the Dutch language. He then returned to London, from where he was to sail for the Cape with Dr. Thom and the teachers which the latter had secured. A search instituted in 1908 among some papers in the parsonage at Graaff-Reinet unearthed an old diary of Andrew Murray, which had lain undiscovered for more than eighty years. It runs to seventy pages of foolscap and contains a full account of the voyage, lasting from the 27th February to the 1st July, 1822, between London Docks and Table Bay. The narrative, in which Mr. Murray throughout speaks of himself in the third person, is so interesting a human document, that we venture to make the following extracts from it —
Extracts from the Journal of Andrew Murray the Elder.
Early in the year 1821 His Majesty's Government were pleased to appoint the Rev. Dr. Thom to provide some preachers and teachers in connexion with the Church of Scotland to go out to the Colony of the Cape of Good Hope. After considerable trouble, Dr. Thom succeeded in engaging the Rev. Andrew Murray, preacher, of Aberdeen, as a clergyman for the Colony, and Messrs. Brown, Innes, Robertson and Dawson from Aberdeen, Mr. Rattray from Dundee, and Mr. Blair from Glasgow, as schoolmasters. In the beginning of February, 1822, Dr. Thom engaged a passage on board the brig *Arethusa* for the above-mentioned persons and those connected with them.
The Arethusa, a fine vessel of 180 tons burden, commanded by Captain Anderson, sailed from London Docks on Wednesday, 27th February, 1822, — Mr. and Mrs. Dawson on board. Mrs. Dawson, who had come on board a week previous to the vessel sailing, was safely delivered of a son on Saturday the 23rd. For the benefit of Mrs. Dawson and the other passengers. Dr. Thom had agreed with a young medical man to accompany and attend the passengers and crew to the Cape. This young man, having neglected to fulfil part of the agreement, and showing other improprieties of conduct, the captain and passengers deemed it better to allow him some money which had been advanced him, and leave him behind. In the conduct of this young man was exhibited a clear proof of the inefiiciency of education, or any external advantages, to form what may be termed either a useful or an honourable character.
On Monday the 4th March it behoved the passengers who were to embark for Africa to bid a farewell to their dear friends in the metropolis. How noble soever the principles may be which actuate the preachers and teachers of Christianity in leaving their native shores, still, when they are called to take leave of their dear friends, and bid adieu to all those interesting scenes which had cheered their youthful years, they must feel much concerned.
On the morning of Monday the following individuals, after a pleasant passage on the steamboat, went on board the Arethusa — viz., Dr. and Mrs. Thom, their two children, Mrs. Dixie and two daughters. Miss Rose, Messrs. Murray, Brown, Innes, Cawson, Rattray, Robertson and Blair; Mrs. Rattray and two children, Mrs. Dawson and child, Mrs. Milne (the wife of a soldier) and a Mr. Bennet, bound for St. Helena — in all, twenty individuals. On the same afternoon the Arethusa sailed down the river for five or six miles, and there remained for the night, the Captain, Dr. Thom, and Mr. Murray being absent, the former being employed in settling some business, and the others taking leave of their dear friends, Mr. and Mrs. Nisbet, whose hearts and house have ever been open to all such as wished to devote themselves to the service of their Redeemer in heathen lands.
On the morning of Tuesday weighed anchor at six o'clock; during the day enjoyed a favourable gale, and reached the Downs on the evening of the same day. While riding in the Downs on the night between the 5th and the 6th the Arethusa, in common with other vessels, was overtaken by a heavy gale, which lasted till twelve o'clock on Tuesday [Wednesday ?]. Four vessels were torn from their anchors, one of which soon after foundered, but happily the Arethusa remained fast at her moorings. The vessel lost was a brig from St. Thomas. The crew fortunately were all saved, although their safety was effected at the expense of the life of one of the boatmen who came to afford assistance. “Good God, on what a brittle thread hang everlasting things!”
On the 7th remained in the Downs. A strong gale continuing to blow from the west, arrangements were made among the passengers for occupying their time to best advantage. Every gentleman appeared anxious to adopt such measures as might be thought advantageous for promoting each other's improvement in those branches of useful knowledge which might be calculated, by the divine blessing, to promote their usefulness...
It was a full month before the Arethusa was clear of the coasts of England. The passage of the Bay of Biscay was, as usual, a stormy one. When near the Cape Verde Islands the brig narrowly escaped disaster, as the following account shows —
Thursday 25th [April] came in sight of Cape Verde Islands. The former night drew up, in order to avoid a11 danger of running foul of them, but Capt. Anderson thought that on this night he might safely continue his course during the night. The afternoon had been spent in contriving what should be bought in St. Jago. Mr. Brown and Mr. Murray laboured for some time to learn some Portuguese words which they expected to need on the following day. In the evening Dr. Thom favoured the party with a history of the Colony of the Cape of Good Hope. Worship was conducted as usual, and about half-past nine o'clock Mr. Innes observed that it was time to go to bed. Dr. Thom said he would not in our situation go to bed without going on deck. Accordingly he went, when, a few minutes after, all the passengers were surprised to feel the vessel give a sudden forcible jolt against a rock. Mr. Murray observed that the stroke was certainly given upon a rock or fixed land.
All the passengers, on going on deck, heard the mate (whose attention to our perilous situation had been excited by Dr. Thom) cry out, “Captain Anderson, come! we are on land: the breakers are close to our lee bow.” An indescribable scene of confusion immediately took place, one crying that the breakers were on the bow, another roaring from the rigging that there was land or rock close upon our lee. The common sailors commenced crying — one saying that all was over; another, we were fast, and could not stand out but a very few minutes; while the mate cried, “Make no uproar, keep cool: let us prepare for meeting death like Scotchmen!”
Mr. Brown and Mr. Murray were able to go and assist the seamen to draw up or shorten sail; the rest of the gentlemen kept on the quarter deck, Dr. Thom giving orders for getting the boats in readiness. Dr. Thom wished Mr. Murray to go below and see what state the ladies were in. On going below he found them in as composed a state as could in similar circumstances be expected: nevertheless, a state more easily conceived than described. After engaging a few minutes in prayer, to plead the promise of God, “Call upon Me in the day of trouble, and I win deliver thee,” he read part of the 91st Psalm. The Captain and the mate then came into the cabin. The former appeared to be, as it were, in a state of intoxication (perhaps through surprise), being unable to say where we were, what was the matter, or whither we could turn for safety.
At length the vessel was gotten off the rocks, which were afterwards found to be on a long point of the island of Mayo, where several large East Indiamen had been lost. After some consultation it was agreed that Dr. Thom, Messrs. Innes, Robertson and Brown should remain some hours on deck, as they could not be expected to sleep in such circumstances. Mr. Murray went to bed at one o'clock and slept soundly till four, when he was roused to go on deck, the other gentlemen being about to go to rest. After many a long and anxious look day appeared. Is there anyone in the least conversant with maritime affairs, who can consider the situation of the Arethusa on the evening of the 25th, and not be convinced that nothing less than the special interposition of that God who never slumbers nor sleeps could have preserved either lives or property? Driving with full sail against a brisk wind, and driven thus with great velocity against a range of fixed rocks while neither captain nor mate kept outlook, — none but that God we had just before been worshipping in a social capacity could have delivered us; and He was graciously pleased to interpose in such a manner as to convince the most unthinking mind that He, and He alone, brought us deliverance...
A few further extracts will show that the voyage, like most sea voyages at that time, was subject to all manner of contrary winds and vexatious delays —
Tuesday we were about 12 deg. 26 min. S. latitude and 33 deg. 26 min. W. longitude. Some doubting we might be further west in reality than the Captain had found us to be, it was thought advisable that some one should remain on deck during the greater part of the night, for fear of coming on the American coast. Mr. Murray stopped up till about three o'clock. In the course of the night he had an opportunity to speak to most of the seamen, one by one, on spiritual and eternal subjects. He was happy to find they generally paid more attention to these subjects than could well have been expected.
Wednesday we were glad to find that the wind had become so much more favourable that we could not only steer south, and thereby keep from increasing our western longitude, but could even get a little to the east, and thereby lessen it. At twelve o'clock found the latitude to be 15 deg. 29 min. south, and longitude about 31 deg. west. Most of the passengers began to wish much for a good breeze to hasten our pace and shorten the voyage.
Thursday the wind continued favourable, so that we were able to make a considerable distance of easting. In the evening had some amusement respecting the manners and customs of the Cape farmers. All seemed to enjoy the description Dr. Thom gave of the simplicity of their manners. This description reminded us of those ages when tyrant custom had not shackled man.
Saturday 2Sth [May] found ourselves in a complete calm; could make no way. Such delays were calculated to try the patience of those who have been already long detained on a voyage. This day the health of Messrs. Murray and Dawson was drunk in a glass of wine, it being the day before their birthday. Certainly it is most pleasant to see so many harmoniously uniting in good wishes for each other. It is hoped that the above-mentioned individuals were not unconcerned about the misimprovement of their past years and about the better improvement of those which may come.
Friday the 7th [June] had to contend with contrary winds, tacking sometimes east, sometimes west, and so made no progress. The Captain now began to grudge expenses very much, and to speak of shortening our allowance of water.
Friday 14th. — The day was somewhat cloudy, the wind very strong; went most of the day at the rate of seven or eight miles an hour. Towards the afternoon the wind blew very strong indeed, so that the Captain was obliged to shorten sail considerably, and to put [things] in the best state for the approaching storm. About twelve at night such an immense sea broke over the vessel as made some to think that she could scarcely recover her upright position. At four in the morning such a strong and sudden gust of wind sprung up that made us drift before it, although we had up little or no sail. An apprehension was entertained for a short time that the wind would carry away our masts. On the morning of Saturday were happy to find that no injury had been done. The God who preserves all who confide in Him graciously kept us from all evil, and gave us cause to exclaim, “Oh! that men would praise the Lord for His goodness!”
The arrival in Table Bay is chronicled as follows —
Sabbath 30th [June]. — A fine day, a good breeze and great progress. In consequence of coming so near land, it was thought advisable that the gentlemen should take their turn in looking out for land; consequently Dr. Thom and Mr. Blair sat up till two o'clock on Sabbath morning, when Mr. Murray and Mr. Robertson succeeded till daylight. The weather being good public worship was conducted on deck by Mr. Murray, who preached from 2 Corinthians, v. 21. Immediately after dinner the meeting commenced, when the 116th Psalm was spoken upon by most of the gentlemen, who, it is trusted, experienced feelings similar to the Psalmist when he reflected on the many mercies of God.
Monday, 1st, July 1822. — Messrs. Innes and Dawson had stopped on deck till two o'clock, when Messrs. Brown and Rattray succeeded till day. These informed us that we had gone at the rate of seven or eight knots an hour during the night. Our longitude about 17 deg. east; began to look anxiously for land, it being seventeen weeks to-day since coming on board at Gravesend. Enjoyed a fine, fair wind, but a very heavy sea. In the evening a prayer-meeting for the spread of the Gospel. Between twelve and one o'clock, while Dr. Thom and Mr. Murray were on deck, Mr. Burchell cried out, “Land! land!” How overjoyed we were to see for certain that we were but a few miles from Table Mountain. Next morning set sail, after stopping for a few hours, and reached Table Bay.
A few days after their arrival at Cape Town the Government Gazette contained a notice of Mr. Murray’s formal appointment to the charge of Graaff-Reinet, in succession to the Rev. A. Faure, who had been promoted to Cape Town. Mr. Murray seems to have proceeded immediately to his new sphere of work. The township of Graaff-Reinet, which was to be his home until the day of his death, had been established as early as 1786, and was named in honour of Governor van de Graaff and his wife, whose maiden name was Reinet. Many years elapsed before the village, which was situated in surroundings of great aridity, even began to deserve its designation of the “Gem of the Desert.” A few months after Mr. Murray’s settlement it was visited by the traveller George Thompson, who has left us the following impressions of Graaff-Reinet in 1823 —
25th May. — This being Sunday, I attended divine service with the Landdrost's family at the district church, and heard the Rev. Mr. Murray preach in Dutch to a numerous and attentive congregation. Mr. Murray, like all the late-appointed clergymen of the colonial establishment, is of the Church of Scotland, which in doctrine and discipline corresponds almost entirely with the Dutch Reformed communion.
26th to 29th May. — I spent these four days in Graaff-Reinet. The place is wonderfully improved since the days of Barrow, when it consisted merely of a few miserable mud and straw huts. It contains now about three hundred houses, almost all of which are neat and commodious brick edifices — many are elegant. The streets are wide, laid out at right angles, and planted with rows of lemon and orange trees, which thrive here luxuriantly, and give to the place a fresh and pleasing appearance. Each house has a large allotment of ground behind it, extending in some instances to several acres, which is richly cultivated, divided by quince, lemon or pomegranate hedges, and laid out in orchards, gardens and vineyards. These are all watered by a canal from the Sunday River, which branches out into a number of small channels, and each inhabitant receives his due portion at a regular hour. This canal has been greatly improved, or rather constructed anew on a much higher level, by the present Landdrost, who, by indefatigable exertion, and entirely at his own risk, has carried it along the front of a rocky precipice, and by these means gained a large addition of arable ground, and a more certain and abundant supply of water. I was not a little surprised to find that this arduous task had been accomplished without even the aid of blowing irons or gunpowder, merely by kindling large fires upon the rocks, and when they were well heated dashing buckets of water upon them.
The population of Graaff-Reinet, of all colours, amounts to about 1,800 souls. The town is built in a sort of basin, almost encircled by the deep channel of the Sunday River, and closely environed by an amphitheatre of steep rugged mountains. This position, and the arid quality of the red Karroo soil, render it oppressively hot in summer. At that season, however, the atmosphere is sometimes agitated and cooled by violent thunderstorms, accompanied by heavy rains. In winter the weather is frequently rather cold, owing to the elevated situation of the country just at the foot of the Snow Mountains; but while I was there the air was delightfully temperate, and the sky cloudless and serene.
Mr. Murray was the sixth minister of Graaff-Reinet, and he found the congregation supplied with a suitable church in which to worship, and a roomy parsonage for the use of its pastor. The latter was to be his home for forty-five years and the birthplace of all his children, and it, therefore, merits some description. It was in every respect the finest residence in the village — far finer and more commodious than the Drostdij, in which the Landdrost (or Magistrate) officially resided. It stood in a side street at some little distance from the church, and boasted a spacious yard and outbuildings, with a large garden behind. One of the daughters of the manse has given us the following description —
Ascending by the stone steps we come to the front door, and entering, find ourselves in a large lobby or hall, called the klein voorhuis, because there was a larger one (groot voorhuis) beyond — a spacious dining hall, with doors on all sides, leading into a smaller dining-room, bedrooms, etc. A part of the big hall was later on partitioned off, to give a more comfortable dining-room.
On the left side in front was the drawing-room, and on the right the study and another bedroom. The front stoep, and also the back stoep, were supported by arches, and underneath the whole house ran a series of rooms corresponding with those above. Some of these were often used as bedrooms when the house was full of visitors. They included the cellar, below the big dining-room, the hout-kamer (wood room), kalk-kamer (lime room), kaf-kamer (chaff room) and waggon house. But these arches, with passages beyond, seemed made on purpose for playing hide-and-seek, and often resounded with the voices of the merry, happy children.
From the back stoep, by two circular flights of steps, you went down to the garden. First, the flower garden, then an avenue of orange trees, with tall lilac bushes in between. At the side of the walk was the vineyard, and at the further end of the garden were fruit trees of all kinds, laden in summer time with such fruit as we have never tasted since, and to which the dear children were allowed to help themselves without stint, and regale also their companions who came to play with them. The other half of the garden was sown with oats for the minister's horses, and there was a large plot of lucerne for the cow. On the further side of the lucerne was a row of choice fig trees, and beyond was the boundary wall.
In 1824, two years after his arrival at Graaff-Reinet, Mr. Murray went up to Cape Town in order to attend the meeting of Synod, and on that occasion first met the young lady who became his wife. She was Miss Maria Susanna Stegmann, eldest child of Johan Gotlob Stegmann and his wife Jacomina Sophia Hoppe, who were both of German descent. The mother of Johan Gotlob Stegmann was Sara Susanna Roux, whose great-grandfather, Paul Roux, was one of the Huguenot refugees, who were driven from France by the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, and arrived at the Cape in 1688. Jacomina Sophia Hoppe, the maternal grandmother of the subject of these memoirs, was not of pure German descent, since her maternal grandparents bore the thoroughly Dutch names of Pieter Greeff and Jacomina van Deventer. From his mother’s side it is evident that many strains mingled in the blood of Andrew Murray — German, French Huguenot, and Calvinist Dutch, interfused to form a sturdy South African stock.
When Andrew Murray took to wife Maria Stegmann, the latter was but sixteen years of age, and had naturally received but a slight education, and that chiefly in the Dutch language. But her mind was alert, and her husband took delight in instructing her, reading with her such books as Rollin’s Ancient History and Hume’s History of England. The father-in-law, Mr. Stegmann, had apparently the greatest confidence in the piety of his son-in-law and the devotion of his daughter, for when his wife died and he was re-married to a Miss van Reenen, he sent his young son, Georg Wilhelm, to Graaff-Reinet that he might be under the home influence of Andrew and Maria Murray; and when his second wife presented him with a son, the infant received the name of Johan Andrew, the latter name in honour of the minister of Graaff-Reinet. It is pleasant to be able to state that both these sons became preachers of the Gospel, Georg Wilhelm as minister of the Lutheran Church in Cape Town, and afterwards as pastor of the D. R. Church at Adelaide, and Johan Andrew as minister of Ceres. Georg Wilhelm, the “Uncle William” of later years, was a man of great sincerity and heartiness of character, and a famous revival preacher in days when special services and revivals were not much spoken of.
Andrew Murray the Scotsman soon identified himself completely with the land of his adoption. From the little volume of reminiscences. Unto Children’s Children, by one of his daughters, we take over the following lines concerning his life and the nature of his work at Graaff-Reinet —
He cast in his lot so whole-heartedly with his people that his children cannot remember ever hearing him express the wish to visit his native land. How happy he was among his people only his children, who grew up in the presence of that loving intercourse, can testify. Earnest, affectionate and sincere in all his relations, he never forfeited the respect and esteem accorded him by all. How often we have heard him say, “The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places, and I have a goodly heritage.” His love for his people came out touchingly in an incident towards the close of his life. He was suffering from the effects of a, cold; and on his leaving a certain farm a young man, who had waited on him very tenderly, brought a hot brick and placed it beneath his feet in the cart, whereupon he turned to his travelling companion and said, “Ik woon in het midden mijns volks” (I dwell in the midst of my people).
His parish covered many hundreds of square miles. He established many new congregations, such as those of Aberdeen, Colesberg, Middelburg and Murraysburg, and until these parishes were supplied with ministers of their own — and that was not easily done then — he remained their preacher and pastor. He had to undertake long journeys to these places, sometimes being from home for a fortnight at a time for this purpose. At every farmhouse along the road where the minister stopped for the night, he had scarcely dismounted from the large, springless horse-waggon, before the Bible would be produced and he was asked to conduct a service. He always insisted on all the servants and shepherds being brought in; and, weary though he was, rejoiced at being able to break the bread of life to hungry souls. After the death of the Rev. John Evans, the large congregation of Cradock was also vacant for several years, and our father had to go there every quarter in order to administer the sacrament, holding services for three days — “Preparation” on Saturday, “Communion” on Sunday, with six tables of communicants to be successively addressed, and “Thanksgiving” on Monday. Added to this was the work of catechising, holding church meetings, attending to cases of discipline, celebrating marriages and baptizing infants.. Then there was *huisbezoek* or family visitation on the Sunday afternoon and Monday morning. This was not, as the name seems to imply, going to the houses: that was out of the question, as the people lived on farms, far apart from each other. The families were admitted in turn to the minister's bedroom, which had to answer the purpose of study or vestry, and there they were seriously and affectionately exhorted, advised, encouraged or rebuked, as the case demanded.
Of the visits of the missionaries how much there is to tell! English, Scotch, French and German missionaries found it not only convenient, but most refreshing, to rest themselves and their wearied oxen on the long journey between Port Elizabeth and the interior (or on their way back on a visit to Europe) at the Graaff-Reinet parsonage. Men and animals found room in the spacious house and yard, the outrooms affording lodging for a whole host of Bechuana or Basuto drivers and leaders of oxen. The abundance of fruit made it like an oasis in the desert to the missionary children. The Paris Missionary Society presented Mr. Murray with a handsome timepiece in acknowledgment of the kindness shown to their missionaries.
How fresh in the minds of some of the children are still to-day the visits of Mr. Moffat and of Dr. Livingstone, who has since become so famous. One of us remembers seeing Dr. Livingstone come hurriedly into the dining-room, late for breakfast, triumphantly exhibiting a large hatchet, just to his mind, which he had purchased at the store of Heugh and Fleming. Some years later the children were called to listen while Papa read aloud letters he had received from the explorer, telling of his early journeys into the far interior, where he found tribes who manufactured rings and bracelets of gold. The children cherish lively recollections, too, of the earlier French missionaries — Pellissier, Rolland, Casalis, Lemue, Lauga, Arbousset, Daumas — the first ones unmarried, but the later comers accompanied by their sprightly French wives. We wondered at hearing them talk so fast in an unknown tongue. A friend of missions, Major Malan, said long afterwards that it was the kindness shown to missionaries that had brought so large a blessing upon the minister's family, adding, “For God pays back in kind.”
The chief characteristic of the household was reverence. We reverenced God's name and God's day and God's Word. The wife reverenced her husband; the children reverenced their parents; the servants reverenced their master and mistress. The children were trained in the ways of the Lord. They were taught to render obedience in such a way that they never seemed to know it. Their father's word was law; from his decision there was no appeal; his wisdom was never questioned. It was almost curious to see the reverence with which the young men, after years of study in Europe, and themselves ministers, would bow to their father's decision in every matter where they had asked his advice.
Our father's conversations with his children were very instructive. His sons remember rides with him upon which he told them many interesting things connected with natural history or geography. The occasions on which he spoke to his children about their souls were few but well chosen, and his words never failed to make an impression. It was generally on a Sabbath evening after family worship when the child came for a good-night kiss. “Well, dearie, have you given your heart to Christ yet?” or, “Will you not, before you go to bed tonight, give yourself to Jesus?” Or on a birthday he would say, “This is your birthday: are you bom again?” One thing that impressed us particularly was that he expected that the elder children should interest themselves in the soul's welfare of the younger ones. To a married daughter, visiting her old home, he said, “Have you spoken to the little girls about their souls yet? I wish you would do so.” The children were encouraged to correspond freely with their elder brothers on the subject.
Many words of Scripture became engraven on the hearts of the children through hearing their father repeat them with great feeling and emphasis. Indeed, he has left them to us as a most precious legacy. The word of Christ did indeed dwell in him richly, and he taught and admonished us in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in his heart unto the Lord. Many a sweet verse has been imprinted on our minds and memories from hearing him repeat it half aloud to himself, as he walked up and down the great diningroom after supper. We have heard him say at such times, his face and manner betraying the deepest emotion —
“And when I'm to die. Lord, take me! I'll cry.
For Jesus has loved me, I cannot tell why” —
and stopping in his walk he would say, addressing one of us, “Can you tell why?” and then go on with —
“But this I do find, we two are so joined
He'll not be in glory and leave me behind.”
His own conversion had been associated with the hymn When I can read my title clear. He told his eldest daughter that, as a youth, being in great anxiety about his soul, he took that verse and spent a whole day in the woods, determined not to return home till his title was made clear to him.
As sacred as the memories of the Sunday evenings are those of the Friday evenings, which our father regularly devoted to praying for a revival. He would shut himself up in the study, and read accounts of former revivals in Scotland and other countries, and sometimes come out of his study with Gillie's Collection in his hand, to read us the story of the outpouring of the Spirit on the Kirk of Shotts or of the revivals in Kilsyth and Cambuslang. Once he read about a minister who had prayed for a revival for forty years before it came, and then he said, “Ay, and that is longer than thirty-six.” His children will never forget standing outside his study door, listening to the loud crying to God and pleading for an outpouring of His Holy Spirit.
He did not pray in vain. Many can still remember how, at the Conference at Worcester in 1860, when the wave of blessing which had swept over America, Ireland, Scotland and England had just reached our shores, he quite broke down when he spoke of his great longing for a revival. Within a year of that date the blessing came to his own congregation. Who shall describe the joy of that husbandman who had so long waited patiently for the precious fruit, when his patience of hope was so richly rewarded! “I can imagine Papa's joy,” wrote one of the children, who was away from home; “I think he must be saying with Simeon, Lord, now lettest Thou thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation.” When this letter was read to him, the tears came into his eyes and he said, “It is just that.”
He had warm sympathy with every good work, by whoever begun and in whatever part of the world. He watched with great interest the progress of the Disruption in Scotland, and his enthusiasm was roused by looking at a facsimile of the signatures to the “Act of Separation and Deed of Demission.” In every good cause he took the lead. Long before slavery was abolished he had espoused the cause of the slave. When upon his marriage, as was the custom of the time, a female slave was given to the bride to accompany her to her new home, the bridegroom gave the girl her liberty before she set out with them.
In the course of his ministry he founded no less than eight new congregations, selecting the site of the town, inducting elders and deacons, planning the building of the church, and so forth, until a minister could be called. Two towns, against his expressed wish, were named in honour of him — Murraysburg (after himself) and Aberdeen (after his birthplace). He always had a very strong feeling against remaining too long in the ministry and (as he expressed it) keeping out a younger and stronger man. Increasing ill-health led him to resign his charge at the age of seventy, and he had not long to wait before the Master took him home.
On one of his last journeys he took a chill, which aggravated his disease. During the last few weeks he kept his bed, and suffered much pain, but was always patient and cheerful. On the last Sabbath of his life, when the elders came in after service to see him, he enquired about the sermon; and then, knowing probably that his end was near, he said solemnly, “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him until that day, until that day.” As our mother had been up with him all night, she was persuaded to take a little rest in the next room. He followed her to the door with his eyes, and then repeated the verse —
“Jezus! uw verzoenend sterven
Blijft het rustpunt van ons hart.”
(Jesus! thine atoning dying Still remains my heart's relying.) When the watchers saw that he was soon to leave them, they called our mother; but just as she reached the bedside, he breathed his last.
Some further reminiscences of the mother must find a place in this biography. They are from the pen of the same daughter who has given us so touching a description of the father —
How can a child attempt to describe a mother, and especially such a mother? To us she never seemed at all like anyone else; she was just Mama. She taught us to read before we were old enough to be sent to school, and the hymns and verses which we learnt at her knee have remained in the memory for a lifetime. When our father was from home, Mama took upon herself the task of hearing the boys repeat their lessons before going to school. One of her sons still remembers how, when he grumbled at his difficult Latin lesson. Mama learned the lesson with him, and made him take the book while she repeated it, and so encouraged him.
On Sunday she taught us the Kort Begrip (Shorter Catechism). It is sweet to recall those Sundays. Such Sabbath-keeping has gone out of fashion. Children now would perhaps think it a weariness, yet we cannot remember that we as children ever did. The day was strictly observed. On Saturday afternoon there was the usual cleaning up and sweeping about the house, and the children can all remember being sent down to the cellar to fetch potatoes for boiling, and raisins for the yellow rice that was a regular item in the Sunday dinner. The meat was either cooked on Saturday, or else so prepared that it could be easily warmed; for on Sunday it was compulsory for every one to go to church, the nurse-girl and the baby only excepted. There was often a cold tart on Sunday. The fruit, that in summer always appeared on table three times a day, had been gathered on Saturday. A walk in the garden was of course allowed, and here and there a fruit might be gathered; but no tree climbing and no fruit-picking on a large scale was permissible, as on other days.
Once a week or once a fortnight our mother would indulge in a visit to one of her friends. Let us try and describe this visit. Before school one of the daughters takes a message from Mama to Mrs. Elsie Ziervogel or to Mrs. Berrangé: “If it is quite convenient, Mama asks permission (laat belet vragen) to visit you this afternoon.” If the lady had some engagement for the afternoon, she did not hesitate to say so; if not, the answer would be, “I shall be very happy to see your Mama this afternoon.” Our dinner was at noon, and between two and three Mama would be ready to go, taking her work with her in her reticule. Arrived at the friend's she was ushered into the large cool parlour, in which the lady of the house sat ready to receive her visitor, with her work beside her. On the side-table stood a well-filled cake-basket, covered with a spotless white serviette, a small tray, holding two glass pots of konfijt (preserve), and a difierently shaped glass bowl of clear water, in which were two small silver forks, for the purpose of conveying a portion of preserve to the saucer. At three tea was sent in, and the preserves served with it, and at five coffee and cake. After that the garden would be visited, the lady of the house usually having the care of the vegetables as well as the flowers. When the little daughters of the parsonage came home from school at four o'clock, they found their Sunday frocks and bonnets neatly laid out on the bed in their mother's room; and dressed in these they set forth to join Mama at the house where she was visiting...
The event in the lives of the family was the visit, once in five years, to Cape Town, the metropolis, where the meeting of Synod was held. Oh! those months of anticipation, those weeks of preparation! There were the ten fine horses, the loan of some kind elders or deacons, kept in the stable to be fed up for the journey; and the horse-waggon, which had long been standing unused in the waggon-house, brought out and cleaned and painted afresh. And when the team had to be tried, and the children obtained a drive through the streets, their enjoyment began. Then came the fitting into the waggon of the katel — a wooden frame filled in with wicker-work of cane, and hung inside, two feet above the floor of the waggon — which had to serve as seats by day and bed by night. Then the plat vaatjes (two flat water kegs) cleaned and filled, the larger with water, and the smaller with wine, which was needed for mixing with the almost stagnant water drawn from pools or halfdry fountains along the way through the Great Karroo. Driver and coachman were hired, whip and harness provided, and — last but not least — the tar-barrel, which we have almost forgotten, must be attached to a hook at the side. A bad look-out if it had been forgotten, and the wheels had caught fire! It was a source of endless speculation to the children, what the actual danger of such a fatality was. Beneath the waggon was swung the rem-ketting (a large iron chain for locking the wheel in going down-hill): we were ignorant of brakes in those days. Behind hung the trap — a wooden platform designed to hold pots, kettle and gridiron.
All was now ready for the eventful morning of the start, when the finishing touches were given, the trunks skilfully stowed away beneath the katel, the bedding placed upon it, with extra blankets and pillows for the overflow members of the party to sleep on at night underneath the waggon. The kost-mandje (provision-basket) — covered and lined so as to exclude the dust, well stored with good things, and supplied with cutlery, crockery and table requisites — found a place behind. As this basket could not contain enough food for ten or twelve people for ten days, room had to be found for bags full of Boer biscuit, biltong (dried meat) and sausages. The side pockets were carefully fixed and arranged inside the tent of the waggon, and stocked with toilet apparatus, candles and matches, a Bible and hymn-book, some medicines, and ointment and bandages for possible casualties along the road.
Then came the supreme moment of starting, when the horses had been inspanned, and each traveller had taken his appointed seat. “Crack went the whip, round went the wheels, were never folks so glad!” The first stage of three hours (18 miles) ended all too soon, but then followed the delights of the first outspan and encampment in the veld, when each child went to gather an armful of sticks to help in lighting the fire and preparing the meal. These outspans were just a series of picnics, brimful of enjoyment for the happy children.
The journey from Graaff-Reinet to Cape Town occupied ten days. It was broken by the Sunday rest at some farm or village. Some nights were spent at hospitable farmhouses; but in the Karroo the whole family lodged in and around the waggon. The morning start was usually made long before daylight, and just after sunrise we halted for breakfast. Family worship, night and morning, was never omitted. The hour of the first and the last stage was spent in singing. Those were days long before Sankey or Church Praise or even Bateman existed. Yet what a rich store we had, both in English and Dutch hymns! We possessed the Dutch Psalms and Hymns, the Scotch Paraphrases, the Cottage Hymns and the Olney Hymns; and, best of all, a little stock stored in the memory of what were called Slaven Gezangen (Slave Hymns), compiled for the use of native congregations, which were so simple and sweet that they were loved the most of all.
Mrs. Murray survived her husband for twenty-three years, and died at Graaff-Reinet in the old parsonage, which had then become the home of her son Charles and his family, in the eighty-first year of her life. During the time of her widowhood, so long as health and strength remained to her, she would travel about the country, sojourning now with this son or daughter and now with the other, but always returning to the Graaff-Reinet home. Her delight in her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren was only equalled by the affection and reverence with which they regarded her.
The first child born to this godly couple, Andrew and Maria Murray, on the 15th September, 1826, was a son, who received the name of John, after his mother’s father and his father’s brother. Andrew, the subject of this work, was the second son, born on the 9th May, 1828 ; and he was followed by William, born in 1829, and Maria, the eldest daughter, born in 1831. Charles, the fourth son, arrived in 1833, and was followed by a little daughter, Jemima, who was only two years old when the two eldest sons were sent to Scotland for their education in 1838.
Of Andrew’s youth little is known. He and his brother John were always the closest of companions. John was quiet, thoughtful, studious, slow of speech, and gave early signs of the grace that was in him. Andrew was a boy of somewhat exuberant spirits, less quiet and less studious than his elder brother, but active of body, quick in thought and speech, of a retentive memory and able easily to assimilate knowledge. Not less earnest than his brother, and devout from childhood, he professed to date his conversion from a much later period, when he was already a student at the university of Utrecht. The two lads were in many respects a contrast. John was the true son of his father — silent, reserved, and cautious in word and act. Andrew reflected in his features and character the bright and eager disposition of his mother. In spite of this difference of temperament, or perhaps, because of it, the brothers cherished the highest affection and regard for each other. John frankly admired the talents of his younger brother who, though two years his junior, kept beside him through all their ten years of study; and Andrew revered John’s steadiness of character and sobriety of judgment, while he tried to emulate his industry and his methodical habits of work. The ties of affection and esteem which united the brothers endured throughout the years of their ministry, and were only dissolved by the death of John Murray at the age of fifty-six.