There is such a thing as an atmosphere of belief. It is equally true that there is an atmosphere in which young men may best arrive at life decisions, and that atmosphere can best be generated in genuinely Christian homes. Unconsciously, in most cases, the child fulfils the desire of the parent’s heart.
— John R. Mott
In the fourth decade of the nineteenth century the fortunes of popular education at the Cape were at their lowest ebb. The impetus imparted to the educational enterprise in 1822, when the able teachers secured by Dr. Thom commenced their labours, had died away. The salaries offered were so meagre that the majority of these men soon found spheres of work which provided better emoluments. Mr. Innes was appointed professor of mathematics at the South African College, and subsequently became the first Superintendent-General of Education, Mr. Robertson returned to Europe to qualify for the ministry of the D. R. Church, and some of the rest adopted other occupations. The condition of the public schools of the country sank lower and lower. While the population of the Colony in 1838 totalled about 100,000 whites, there were not more than twenty-three schools in receipt of a Government subsidy. The masters of these schools were paid £40 per annum from the public treasury, with an additional £5 for every ten pupils over the first twenty. On these terms qualified teachers were unprocurable, and those who came forward were able to teach little more than the three R’s. In some of the larger towns, like Graaff-Reinet and Cradock, enterprising parents, whose children required an education beyond that which the village school could supply, clubbed together to obtain a teacher who should instruct five-and-twenty pupils in Latin and mathematics, and all for the munificent salary of £120 per annum.
In Cape Town there were two institutions for higher education. These were the South African College, founded in 1829, and the school known as Tot Nut van’t Algemeen (Pro Bono Publico), the latter being at this time practically a feeder to the former. Among the farmer population of the country districts education was in the saddest condition of all. Sir John Herschel, the famous astronomer, who about this time drew up a memorandum on the state of education at the Cape which marked the dawn of a brighter day, reminded the Governor that schoolmaster was a term of reproach among the Boers. And no wonder; for they were obliged to content themselves with the services of discharged soldiers, who tramped the country from farm to farm, but who were both intellectually and morally incompetent to impart even the most elementary instruction. Such was the state of affairs in the thirties. The oversight of educational concerns was entrusted to the Bible and School Commission, composed of a number of Cape Town clergymen representing the Dutch Reformed, Lutheran, Anglican and Scotch denominations, with a sprinkling of Government officials. These worthy men had little acquaintance with the real needs of the country, were sadly lacking in initiative, and conducted their business for the most part on the laissez aller principle.
It was natural that Andrew Murray and his wife should be greatly exercised about the education of their two elder sons. The prospects were far from bright. There seemed to be small chance within the Colony for two lads of talent to secure an education which would fit them to play their parts in life. And so, after much thought and prayer, the parents arrived at the decision to send their sons to Scotland, placing them under the charge of the Rev. John Murray, in Aberdeen. This decision was reached, we may be sure, with heavy hearts, for the voyage from South Africa to Europe in those days was protracted and dangerous, and the severance from their beloved boys must needs be, at the best, for a long period of years.
Mr. and Mrs. Murray accompanied their sons to Port Elizabeth. Here, in July, 1838, John and Andrew went on board the sailing vessel which was to convey them across the ocean. They were placed under the charge of the Rev. James Archbell and his wife, Wesleyan missionaries, who were proceeding home on furlough. Asked in after years what he could remember of the voyage to England, Andrew used to reply, “Nothing at all, except that Mrs. Archbell had a baby.” The sea voyage seems to have been moderately prosperous. The only complaint in which the father indulges is that, with the exception of a few lines by Mr. Archbell from St. Helena, he had no word from his absent sons until after the lapse of seven months, to a day, from their departure from Port Elizabeth.
The boys reached Aberdeen one day in the autumn of 1838, and on the very next morning their uncle John, who held strict Scotch views on the sin of idleness, took them over to the old Grammar School. This famous building has now wholly disappeared, and its site is occupied by a statue of General Gordon. The change from sunny South Africa to bleak and wintry Scotland, and the sudden introduction to new scenes, new masters and new companions, must have exercised a depressing influence upon the two lads, who were only ten and twelve years old respectively. Fortunately they were both studious, and the necessity for application to their studies, coupled with the natural ambition to prove that Colonial lads were not utter savages, left them no time to yield to melancholy humours. The subject to which chief attention was paid was Latin, and though the brothers had enjoyed no other instruction than their father’s, they found that what they had acquired was quite equal to the average attainments of boys of their own age in Aberdeen.
Of the impression which the lads made upon the members of their uncle’s household we know hardly anything, beyond the reminiscences contained in the following lines by their cousin, Miss Isabella Murray, who confesses that she was less than a year old when Andrew became an inmate of their home —
He and his brother, when they arrived after a miserable voyage, were suffering from scurvy... and I have always thought with pity of the dear little fellow being entered at the Grammar School the first morning after his arrival. But he was very happy there, and had a great teacher in Dr. Melvin, of whom Professor David Masson has written so graphically. I cannot tell you anything remarkable of his early days with us. He was a bright, lovable boy, extremely obliging, and devoted to his brother John, to whom he owed much. John was studious and thoughtful beyond his years, and seemed weighted with a sense of responsibility, both on his own account and Andrew's. Strange to say, when both boys sat for the entrance examination at Marischal College, it was the younger boy, then only thirteen, who gained a bursary. One remarkable thing I can tell you which applies to both boys, — with neither of them had their uncle and aunt even once to find fault during their eight years' stay in our house, and this was due, we believed, to incessant prayer for them in the Graaff-Reinet home. We, the younger members of the family, looked on them as brothers, and were broken-hearted when they left us.
A good many letters, chiefly from the father to his sons, have been preserved from the Aberdeen period, and though they cast little light upon the circumstances under which the youths lived or the progress they made, a few extracts are here presented because of their general interest —
Rev. Andrew Murray to his sons John and Andrew.
Graaff-Reinet, 30th August, 1838.
My dear Boys, — I should have written to you before this time, had it not been that we have been expecting every post to hear something from you from St. Helena. You may both depend on it, though you are out of our sight you are seldom out of mind. We have been as it were following [you] with our fervent prayers that the God of the ocean may have been your Protector and your Guide, and we cherish the strong confidence they shall have been heard and answered. We trust also that you have not forgotten to cry to this God, “Thou art my Father, the Guide of my youth.”
You may sometimes think it hard that whilst so many young people you have known, and yet know, enjoy all the happiness of the paternal circle, you should have been sent so far from it. I trust, however, that you will ever remember that this has taken place for your own good. You know God has appointed me my station and my work here. You know also, had my affection for you so far swayed with me as to keep you here, you could never have seen or known the half of the good you are likely to see and know now. It will, however under the blessing of God depend much on yourselves whether or not the step we have taken shall be for your real benefit in this life and that which is to come...
I rejoice to think that your Uncle will not fail to put you in mind of these things. You must try to be always open and candid with him. You may think him sometimes rather too strict, but believe me he will always have your real good at heart. Do not then do or even plan anything you would not like him to know of. Whatever school he may see meet to send you to, believe it is for your good. Try to keep as far up in your classes as you possibly can. Prepare your tasks well in the evenings, and trust not too much to the mornings even when the lessons may be pretty easy...
Mr Frames, whom you may have seen at Port Ehzabeth, has been nominated to the Governor by the School Commission for the situation Mr Blair had (*That is, as teacher in the public school at Graaff-Reinet). Should he succeed, he knows little of Latin, so that he could not have helped you, had you remained. Mr. Faure and Mr. Robertson have both asked me for William, as they have Latin schools in Town and at Swellendam, but we do not like to part with him yet. Tell your Uncle that I have this day received his letter of the 22nd of May, and that I shall in common with many of my brethren ever feel grateful to him for his exertions in behalf of the interests of our Church in this case of Mr. Shand (*Rev. Robert Shand, minister of Tulbagh, had refused to baptize the children of any but believing parents, even though members of the Church in full standing, and his action bad caused much trouble in the Church courts).
Now, my dear Boys, let us hear from you frequently, as everything about yourselves, your friends, your lodgings and your studies will be sure to prove very interesting to us, and many friends here will be enquiring about you. As it is near post time I must bid you both adieu, commending you daily to the care and keeping of our ever blessed and adorable Father in heaven.
Graaff-Reinet, 5th March, 1840.
My dear Boys, — Your long expected and very agreeable letter of the 7th November gave us all very great pleasure indeed. We were delighted to learn that John had gotten prizes, and that you, Andrew, stood so near to him. What gave me the greatest satisfaction was that you, John, seemed at least to take pleasure in communicating to us Andrew's respectable appearance in his classes. I trust you will both continue to do your best, as these prizes are valuable as marking a certain standing in the class.
Nothing could afford me greater delight than to hear of those revivals of religion in the West of Scotland to which Andrew has alluded in your letter. It affords me joy to hear of any number of souls brought to Christ anywhere, and it would increase the joy to think, my dear Boys, that you, though young, begin to take some interest in such things...
You will see that one cause I write short this time is because your little brothers and sisters have taken up the space, and communicated some of those local and domestic things I might have mentioned. I rejoice that God so ordered it that you went to Aberdeen about the time you did, for as you now see yourselves, your time would have been lost here...
Graaff-Reinet, 15th December, 1840
My dear Boys, — We trust you continue to enjoy good health. We were a little uneasy to see from your letter of the 30th July that Andrew had not been very well when out at Clatt during the summer vacation. We trust, however, that he is now quite well. I was much pleased with your account of your trip. Bennachie and Tap o' Noth put me in mind of my young days. When you have an opportunity give my compliments to those kind friends in the Garioch who were asking about me, and who showed you so much kindness. I trust, however, that such little excursions do not tend to take away your attention from your studies, but make you resume them with renewed alacrity. You must try beyond all things to serve and please God through our blessed Redeemer. Wisdom's ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are paths of peace. The promise is, they who seek the Lord early shall find Him; and oh! blessed are all such as find Him...
The revivals of religion in the West of Scotland, to which allusion was made in one of Andrew’s letters, were connected with the remarkable work of that young preacher and saint, William C. Bums. He was one of the earliest personalities to exercise spiritual influence over the youthful Andrew, and some account of his activities will, therefore, not be out of place. During his student years William Burns received a powerful impulse towards the mission field, and offered himself to the Mission Committee of the Church of Scotland as a missionary to India. By a providential chain of circumstances which he has himself described, he was for a time deflected from his original purpose, and led to devote himself to those evangelistic labours which resulted in such large blessing for Scotland.
Mr. McCheyne (he writes), about to set out for Palestine, wrote asking me to take his place at Dundee. I found myself unexpectedly free to do this, and being speedily licensed I entered on my duties in that memorable field. This was at the beginning of April . In the month of June or July I received the call that I had long looked for, being asked by the India committee to go to Poonah in the presidency of Bombay. My engagement at Dundee stood in the way of my at once complying, and another call which the Jewish committee gave me to go to Aden in Arabia increased the difficulty. While asking guidance in regard to my duty I went to the communion at Kilsyth in July, when the Lord began to employ me in a way so remarkable for the awakening of sinners, that in returning to Dundee, and finding myself m the midst of a great spiritual awakening, I was obliged to make known to both committees that, while my views regarding missionary work remamed unchanged, yet I found that I must for the time remain where I was, and fulfil the work which God was laying upon me with a mighty hand.
The marvellous influence which Mr. Burns wielded over the great congregations that gathered to hear him, and the wave of blessing which everywhere followed his ministrations, can be ascribed to no other agency than that of the Divine Spirit. With the exception of a voice of remarkable compass and power, he possessed few natural qualifications for popular preaching. His biographer says in this connexion —
Young, inexperienced, measured and slow of speech, gifted with no peculiar charm of poetry or sentiment or natural eloquence or winning sweetness, he bore so manifestly the seals of a divine commission, and carried about him withal such an awe of the divine presence and majesty, as to disarm criticism and constrain even careless hearts to receive him as the messenger of God. If his words were sometimes few, naked, unadorned, they were full of weight and power, and went home, as arrows directed by a sure aim, to the hearts and consciences of his hearers. Literally it might be said of him that his speech and his preaching were not with excellency of speech and man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power...
[When preaching at Kilsyth on the 23rd July, 1839] his manner at first, and through nearly half of the discourse was, as usual, calm, deliberate, measured; nor did he, I think, greatly diverge either in words or in sequence of thought from the line of the written discourse; but there was about him throughout an awful solemnity, as if his soul was overshadowed by the very presence of Him in whose name he spoke; and as he went on that presence seemed more and more to pass within him and to possess him, and to bear him along in a current of strong emotion, which was alike to himself and to his hearers irresistible. Appeal followed appeal in ever-increasing fervour and terrible energy, till at last, as he reached the climax of his argument, and vehemently urged his hearers to fight the battle that they might win the eternal prize, the words No cross, no crown pealed from his lips, not so much like a sentence of ordinary speech, as a shout in the thick of battle.
Writing a full year after the occurrences, Mr. Burns describes the effect of his preaching on that memorable day at Kilsyth in the following terms —
During the whole of the time that I was speaking the people listened with the most solemn and rivetted attention, and with many silent tears and inward groanings of the spirit; but at the last their feelings became too strong for all ordinary restraints, and broke forth simultaneously in weeping and wailing, tears and groans, intermingled with shouts of joy and praise from some of the people of God. The appearance of a great part of the people from the pulpit gave me an awfully vivid picture of the state of the ungodly in the day of Christ's coming to judgment. Some were screaming out in agony; others, and among these strong men, fell to the ground as if they had been dead; and such was the general commotion, that after repeating for some time the most free and urgent invitations of the Lord to sinners, I was obliged to give out a psalm, which was soon joined in by a considerable number, our voices being mingled with the mourning groans of many prisoners sighing for deliverance.
In April, 1840, Mr. Burns began his labours in Aberdeen. He seems to have been, for a time at least, an inmate of the household of John Murray of the North Church during this period. It is on record that as a youth he received much help and edification from the preaching of Mr. John Murray, and his services to the Church of Christ in Aberdeen was a repayment, with added interest, of the debt of those early years. His personal influence, no less than his powerful preaching, left an indelible impression upon youths so susceptible to religious appeal as John and Andrew Murray. The younger brother, in particular, was accustomed in after years to trace back the first religious crisis of which he was conscious, and which he distinctly recalled to mind, to the solemn presence and the spiritual power of William C. Burns. He was permitted — a great honour for the lad of twelve — to carry to church the evangelist’s Bible and cloak, and he retained his life long a vivid memory of the deep voice, earnest manner and pointed appeals of the man through whose preaching so many thousands were brought from darkness into God’s marvellous light. Indeed, the impression made by William Burns upon the responsive youth was perhaps deeper and more permanent than Andrew Murray himself suspected. For the description of Mr. Burns’ pulpit manner and speech is largely applicable, differences of temperament being allowed for, to the preaching of his younger contemporary. Andrew Murray, too, was gifted with “no peculiar charm of poetry or sentiment or winning sweetness.” His words, like those of Burns, were “naked and unadorned,” but nevertheless “full of weight and power.” But while with both there was no effort at oratorical display, there was that true eloquence which is born of impassioned earnestness and an intense realization of things spiritual and invisible.
The more equable character of John came under impressions which were as abiding as those made upon Andrew. It can hardly be doubted that the earnest-minded evangelist spoke to the two youths while sojourning under the same roof, beseeching them to yield themselves to Christ. But to John’s innate reserve it was easier to set down his doubts and difficulties on paper than to give them tongue in the presence of another. And this he did after the departure of Mr. Burns from Aberdeen. To his communication he received the following reply —
Rev. William C. Burns to John Murray.
“Forsake not the works of thine own hands.” — Psalm 138:8
Dundee, 13th January, 1841.
My Dear Friend, — I was happy to receive your interesting letter, and I have been attempting in the all-prevailing name of Jesus to commend your soul in its present affecting case to the infinitely merciful and gracious Jehovah. Do not, I beseech you, give way to the secret thought that you are excusable in remaining in your present unrenewed state, or that there is the smallest possible hope of your being saved unless you are really born of the Holy Spirit, and reconciled to the Holy Jehovah by the atoning blood of His only-begotten Son. Search your heart, my dear fellow-sinner, and I am sure that you will find something which you are refusing to let go at the command of God, and look upon this secret reserve in your surrender to Him as the reason on account of which He seems for a time to overlook your case. He is a God of infinite holiness, and cannot look upon iniquity. If we regard iniquity in our heart the Lord will not hear us. But if you are coming in sincerity of heart to Him through Jesus Christ, you will find Him to be a God of infinite mercy and loving-kindness, delighting in mercy and having no pleasure in the death of the sinner. Do not doubt, as your own wicked heart, under the power of Satan, would tempt you to do, that there is mercy for you if you will not willingly harden your heart against Jehovah's voice of authority and love. He will make himself known to you in good time. Wait on Him. I can testify this to you from my own experience. Often do I think that God has forgotten me, but I find that afterwards He answers prayers which I have forgotten. Oh! dear friend, be not tempted to put off to a more convenient season your entire consecration to Emmanuel. You are enjoying in Jehovah's infinite and most undeserved mercy a convenient season at present; oh! improve it, lest the great God should be provoked and swear in His wrath, “You shall not enter into my rest.” I will continue to pray for you, and I have hope in the Lord that I may be heard for His own glory. Jesus' service and His presence are indeed sweet.
I am, dear John, Your affectionate friend in the Lord Jesus,
Wm. C. Burns.
P.S. — Show this to Andrew, whom it may also suit. I got his letter and shall answer it afterwards if the Lord will. Write me again.
It lies outside the scope of this biography to do more than merely indicate the extent of the spiritual impulse which Andrew Murray derived from Burns. As to the further labours of the latter in Aberdeen, it is sufficient to say that they were richly owned of God, and resulted in the conversion of large numbers of individuals, especially of young men and young women. Mr. Burns was countenanced and supported by several of the local ministers, among whom Mr. Murray of the North Church and Mr. Parker of the Bonaccord Church were prominent. “Both of these,” says Mr. Burns’ biographer, “loved and befriended the young evangelist with that peculiar and beautiful affection which one sometimes sees in those of more advanced years towards the young.” For an account of the subsequent evangelistic labours of Mr. Burns in Ireland and in Canada, and of his long and honourable career as missionary in China, the reader is referred to the interesting pages of the Memoir of the Rev. Wm. C. Burns, published by his brother, Professor Islay Bums, in 1870.
Meanwhile Scotland — ecclesiastical Scotland — was passing through stirring experiences. The Church of Scotland, or perhaps we should say rather the “evangelical party” in the Church of Scotland, was finding itself thwarted, and the decisions of its courts set aside, by the judgment of the civil tribunals of the country. In the famous Auchterarder case a majority of eight judges as against five laid down as dictum that the Established Church derived all its powers and authority from Parliament alone, and that since the law had conferred upon the Church its functions the law alone could define what those functions were. The spiritual independence of the Church was thus practically denied. It could pass no spiritual sentence which was not susceptible of appeal to, and rescission by, the law-courts of the land. Public opinion was stirred to its very depths over this question. The religious atmosphere was charged with electricity. Large numbers of ministers and laymen began to perceive that the conflict could have but one end, the rupture of the compact which bound the Church to the State. In this manner alone could the spiritual independence of the Church be vindicated and sustained. But such an act implied the renunciation of all temporal possessions — churches, colleges, lands, funds, endowments — which would remain the property of those who preferred to maintain their connexion with the State, and to surrender their spiritual independence. And so, at the commencement of the fifth decade, we find the “evangelicals” nerving themselves for the supreme sacrifice.
John Murray of the North Church was one of the keenest of the evangelical party, and his two nephews, young though they were, followed the phases of the conflict with the most eager interest. A letter written by John and Andrew on the 15th September, 1841, in which they asked their father various questions bearing on the relation of Church to State in South Africa, has not been preserved, but from Mr. Murray’s reply (dated 20th January, 1842) we learn the nature of their queries —
Rev. Andrew Murray to his sons John and Andrew.
I like your desire after information, but I must confess some of your queries could not be answered in a single letter; e.g. “Describe the Constitution of the D. R. Church in South Africa” is in a letter no easy task. This Church is Presbyterian, has its sessions, presbyteries and synod. New laws are about to be submitted to the first meeting of Synod in November next, in which it is proposed to have a General Assembly as a highest court of appeal in spiritual things. The present Governor, Sir George Napier, has expressed himself inclined to give more latitude in this respect. You must know that when I came here we had no church courts; we have as yet no tithes or other sources of income for our churches, and draw our salaries from the Colonial Treasury, which the Governor could not, but a British minister might at once withdraw from our whole church.
As to the case of intrusion at Somerset, or any other vacant church you suppose, I need hardly say what a Presbytery would be bound to do — for this reason, that a congregation in South Africa would never dream of seriously opposing the man the Governor nominated: such would be thought open rebellion in this Colony. I may, however, mention that the majority of ministers and elders in last Synod carried a proposal of giving congregations a right to call their own clergymen, subject to the approval of the Governor; and every Governor has consulted more or less the feelings of the people. Sir George Grey intended giving Somerset to Dr. Roux or Mr. Borcherds, but on the memorials of churchwardens he gave the living to Mr. Pears, and sent Dr. Roux to Albany, where Mr. Pears was...
You seem to think it about time that I should express myself as to what profession I should wish you to make a choice of. I think it will be time enough to do so by and by. As to what John hints as to his predilections for farming, I must say I once felt something similar. But to study the improved methods of agriculture practised in Scotland, and to come to South Africa, where in all inland districts nothing will grow without irrigation, — and on an extensive and expensive farm there is often only water for a garden, or for sowing two or three buckets of wheat — would be perfectly ridiculous. The only farming succeeding here at present is sheep-farming, where a large capital is invested in fine woolled sheep, and the owner is on the spot and a practical farmer, A wool stapler (see Walker's Dictionary) or wool merchant may soon do a good business. As for iron-founders, I see nothing for them to do here — there would be no demand for their work.
In short, I am fully of Aunt's opinion. I should not like, after going from Graaff-Reinet to Aberdeen and to College, to learn a business or trade I could have learned as well at the Cape of Good Hope. I should never wish you to think of the law, as our Bench and Bar and notaries are of such principles and morals, that I should tremble for any contact with them. Should you feel inclined to turn your attention to theology or medicine or mercantile pursuits, I have no doubt there will always be openings at the Cape, as well as at other places. If I were in your circumstances I should cast an eye towards the Indian Missions: there is something there worthy the ambitions of great minds. But even promoting the moral and religious improvement of the rising generation under Dr. Innes is something more worthy of having obtained a liberal education than turning the attention to any common handicraft. The College in Cape Town is not prospering as could have been wished or expected: the pupils are few in number, say forty. It is feared by some that Dr. Adamson acted very unadvisedly in giving up his situation in the Scotch Church...
The following letter was written within a few days of the Disruption of the Scottish Church on the 18th May, 1843, and evinces something of the intense interest which Scotsmen all over the world displayed in the fortunes of the historic Church of the Establishment. Writing on the 4th May, 1843, Mr. Murray says —
Rev. Andrew Murray to his sons John and Andrew.
Through the goodness of our Heavenly Father we are all well, as also our friends in Cape Town. Willie wrote to you two or three months ago, giving you his simple but circumstantial account of our late journey to Cape Town. Andrew's part of your last letter pleased me much, giving me a plain but clear statement of improvements in Aberdeen.
I am sorry you forgot to send me the number of the Witness giving an account of the grand Convocation of Non-intrusionists. I was last week, however, favoured with a number of the Banner from my brother, giving Sir J. Graham's Reply, and an account of the congregational meeting in Aberdeen. Every interesting paper is read with avidity, not only by me, but by Mr. Paterson, the Government teacher, [Rev.] Mr. Reid of Colesberg, and others.
It is now time that I come to some of John's questions... The emancipated slaves cannot become small farmers here, as farms have become scarce and very dear. One in Uitvlugt, purchased some time ago for 5,000 rixdollars (or £375), was wished to be purchased for building a church. The people offered 16,000 rixdollars (or £1,200) for it, but in vain. Many of our late slaves are doing well as tradesmen, among others Damon is doing well as a mason.
The Colony is made to bear its own expenses, except, it may be, for the military establishment. The revenue arises from custom-house dues, a small land rent, and transfer dues, with something for licences for different things. I believe William told you our church has been vastly improved by a new roof, a new ceiling and a new pulpit. The inside has been painted and the outside plastered anew. We have been entering into an agreement with Mrs. Pears of Somerset to take Maria for a year at least into her boarding-school, as Mrs. Wentworth cannot do much more for her. The terms are forty guineas per annum...
The first of the letters of young Andrew which have survived lacks a superscription, but was apparently written from Aberdeen in March or April of 1843. He writes upon a double sheet of letter-paper, which is adorned with a device representing some of the sights of Aberdeen. In the centre is Marischal College, a pile of buildings enclosing three sides of a quadrangle; and on either hand are engravings of the Aberdeen Market Cross and the Duke of Gordon’s Monument; the whole being the production of Samuel Maclean, 8, Union Street. The letter runs as follows —
Andrew Murray to his Parents.
My dear Papa and Mamma, — We wrote to Mr. Moffat, asking him if he would take a parcel, and received a very kind answer saying that they would be happy to do it, and that they had enquired for us at St. Andrews, but found that we were not there. We will send you very soon, which may perhaps reach you before this, a number of the Witness containing a copy of the letter which Sir James Graham has written in answer to the Memorial of the General Assembly. We send in the box Henry Martyn's Journal, which Aunt thinks very highly of, and his Memoir to Mamma. Aunt has sent you a bag, and she would have written to Mamma, were it not that she has a very bad toothache, and also is very busy to-day. Also there is a mat which we bought at the sale, and also another which Margaret is sending you. The pictures of animals are to Isabella from Catherine. There is a profile of myself and John, which are thought pretty good likeness. They were done by ourselves. There are a great many loose things in the box, such as the Scottish Tract Society Magazine, and some of the tracts which are distributed once a month through the parish. They are paid by subscriptions. There are also copies of the pastoral address by the General Assembly for a national fast. There is a copy of the Memorial of the Convocation to Government, and their address to the people of Scotland. The cuffs are for Maria; only should they not fit her, perhaps they would fit Mamma. Perhaps you may receive another letter from us before this. Mrs. Moffat said in her letter that they were not sure whether they would — Perhaps the present to the two youngest may not be very suitable, yet they were the best we could find. The presents are all from us both, and they are to be paid chiefly out of the bursary money, with which we are also to pay the book accounts.
I hope you will excuse this writing and the shortness of the letter, for the box must be nailed up immediately.
And believe me, My dear Papa and Mamma, Your ever affectionate son,
P.S. — “Aunt Upton” is from Catherine to Jemima. The perforated card is for Maria to work in marks like the one sent.
Some letters written in the course of 1844 are appended, as they show what thoughts and pursuits were occupying the youth of sixteen —
Andrew Murray to his Parents.
Aberdeen, 11th April, 1844.
My dear Papa and Mamma, — We received yours of October 30th about the beginning of February, and as we had written a little before, we delayed answering it till we should see what our success might be at the end of the session. That success, however, has been very small: John has gotten the seventh prize in Mathematics.
The Rev. Mr. MacDonald of Blairgowrie has been here lately, collecting for a scheme for building five hundred schools, giving £100 to each, which, however, will not in all places wholly build the school. At a public meeting he held here; £1,942 was subscribed, and at a second public meeting the amount announced as having been collected in three days was; £3,533, to be paid in five years by instalments. He requires £50,000, and wants yet about £10,000, which will soon be raised, however, as he is a very good beggar. Great efforts are also making in England for education, the Independents having agreed to collect £100,000 to build schools in connexion with their Churches, and the Wesleyans are to raise the same.
We shall send you to-morrow the number of the Banner containing the account of the two Synods which have been held here. During the sitting of the Free Synod, meetings were held by some of the ministers with the Old Light Seceders of this district. The object was to ascertain the extent of their differences, and to see what likelihood there is of a junction; which will not, however, take place soon. The chief ground of difference is, as I suppose you know, the binding obligation of the Covenants. One of these ministers, Mr. Gray of Brechin, wished me to remember him to you, and says that he remembers breakfasting with you. After the Synod was over last night, there was a meeting to hear from those ministers who had been sent in Deputations to England, an account of their proceedings. The amount received from England will be about £50,000 — a considerable help. Some ministers have been sent to America, and a good deal will be gotten — about £10,000.
Puseyism is making great progress in England, and there is a considerable chance of there being another disruption there, but only about 2,000 ministers, I believe, will come out — a small proportion to the 500 of Scotland.
A proposal has been lately made, and will likely be carried into effect, of making a railway from the south to Aberdeen, which will be a great convenience.
April 17th. — I would have despatched this the day after the above date, had it not been that we were engaged writing in Mr. Wm. Brown's office; and I am not sorry for it, as we this morning received your two letters of January 25th. Aunt read to us part of your letter to Uncle, in which you spoke about our getting Hebrew, and Uncle had previously kindly offered to help us with it this summer. As I wish to answer the letter from William, etc., I shall conclude, but I shall try in the next letter, or the one after that, to state to you what are my views as to a profession. We have ordered for you a set of the Witness containing an account of the Free General Assembly which is to meet on the 18th May.
Aberdeen, 4th July, 1844.
My dear Papa, — Having become acquainted with Captain Allan, of the Mountain Maid, trading between this and the Cape, we with great pleasure avail ourselves of his kind offer to take a box, in order to send you a few books. We became acquainted with Captain A. thro' Mr. Morgan of the Cape, who sent a message with him to Uncle. I hope you will accept of the Memoirs of Mr. McCheyne from me, as a token of my affection. We have sent to William his Travels, and his Life is written by his fellow-traveller and intimate friend, Mr. Bonar. John has sent you Hetherington's History of the Church of Scotland, which I should think you will like, as it is brought down to the time of the Disruption, and contains the most important documents in regard to the Church. There is also in the box for you the Proceedings of the Assembly in regard to the state of religion, with the sermon preached before the Assembly by Mr. C. Brown, a brother of Mrs. Murray's. We hope you received the signatures to the Deed of Demission we sent you a while ago. An additional sheet has been published, and if it come to Town in time to be put into the box, we shall send it. We have also sent a dozen large thin sheets of paper, so that William and the rest may have no excuse for not writing long letters, as these sheets being very thin are not charged double here.
The Free Church is prospering well beyond all expectation. Four hundred and seventy ministers came out at the time of the Disruption, and one hundred and thirteen have been ordained since, and there are more than one hundred additional charges to be supplied. The attendance at the Free Churches in Aberdeen, according to a report made by a magistrate, is about five times greater than that at the Established Churches, and two of the Est. Churches in which ministers are about to be settled average an attendance of only thirteen! There is still considerable distress produced by the refusal of sites in some districts. The Duke of Sutherland, however, has given sites...
There is a prospect, and even a considerable likelihood, of the Glasgow Missionary Society's being adopted into the Foreign Mission Scheme of the Free Church. Any news as regards missions in Africa will be much prized by us. Have you, as a Church, any missions? Because I do not remember collections being made in the Church. Which do you think the best books on South Africa? We have, or have read, Philip, Barrow, Vaillant and Boyce's Notes.
Dr. and Mrs. Morrison of London were here lately on their way to Buchan, and will likely spend a few days here again on their return. Dr. M. is the first minister, not belonging to the Free Church, who has preached for Uncle. They wished to be remembered to you...
Uncle is keeping his health remarkably well, considering the amount of labour he goes through, as he preaches thrice every Sabbath, a thing very uncommon before the Disruption. Aunt is never very stout, and has been in the country for about a month lately. Our cousin Andrew, who has been in South America, is coming home, as the heat of the climate has hurt his health.
We shall ask Captain A. to put this letter into the post at Cape Town whenever he arrives at the Cape, so that we may get a parcel of letters from him when he returns.
Andrew Murray to his sister Maria.
Aberdeen, 4th July, 1844.
My dear Maria, — Though I have begun to write, yet I do not know what I have to tell you. After long thinking the only subject I can think of is to tell you something about my botanical studies. The class meets between eight and nine o'clock in the morning. We examine some plants that have been collected by the professor's assistant the day before, by the Linnaean system, and hear a short lecture. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, but sometimes only on Wednesdays, we walk between seven and nine o'clock and collect plants. On Saturdays we take long walks, which occupy nearly the whole day. To-morrow (this is Friday) we are going to a place thirteen miles away: perhaps Papa may know it, N. Newburgh, at the mouth of the Ythan. We are to walk there and back; so that, as we do not go the straight road, we will walk about thirty miles.
There are about six hundred difierent plants gotten in this neighbourhood, but none so pretty as those you will get. About twenty only of the forty students attending the class go these long excursions, and sometimes the people will not let them into the inns, thinking that they are strolling play-actors. At the end of the three months during which the class lasts we will take an excursion of a week, walking through the country amongst the hills in the west end of this county.
I hope you will write me a full account of your studies, and how you spend your time at Somerset.
At this time Mr. Murray was anxiously awaiting the decision of his two sons regarding the choice of a profession, and beginning to urge with greater insistency the claims of the Christian ministry. On the 1st August, 1844, he writes as follows —
Rev. Andrew Murray to his sons John and Andrew.
I was duly favoured two weeks ago with Andrew's letter of the 11th and 17th April. I was much gratified by the news it contained respecting church schools in Scotland. I should, however, have liked that it had contained something more about yourselves, especially regarding your views as to what line of life you think of following after. Young men ought to be decided on that subject before they have nearly finished their course at College. I wrote to you on the 11th April on the subject, expressing my desire, should the Lord incline your hearts that way, that you should devote yourselves to His service and glory first, and then devote yourselves to the service of the sanctuary. As you have not only received said letter before this time, but I trust have also answered it, I am looking out with intense interest, as you may well conceive, to see what that answer may be. As I am daily entreating God to guide, direct and bless you, I feel a strong confidence that you have not been sent from Africa to Europe to obtain a liberal education, but for some truly worthy purpose.
It is very doubtful, should I be spared, that I shall have it in my power to give any of your brothers the advantages you have had. I trust you will see not to disappoint our expectations, and enter on avocations you might equally well have acquired here, without having ever left our shores. It has been lately proposed by our Governor to employ four additional clergymen in connexion with our Church; but there are not so many at present unemployed in the Colony, and very few at present in Holland studying for our Church. I shall, however, endeavour to leave the matter in His hands who has thus far led us on. You will make the matter a subject of prayerful consideration.
Before this letter could have reached Aberdeen, Andrew had written to say that, after careful thought and prayer, he had decided to give himself to the work of preaching the Gospel. The letter in which he acquainted his parents with this momentous decision has unfortunately perished, but we still have the letter in which his father gives expression to his joy and gratitude at his son’s choice —
Rev. Andrew Murray to his son Andrew.
Graaff-Reinet, 1st November, 1844.
My dear Andrew, — I have been favoured this morning with yours of the 7th of September, and am surprised at having received it so soon. It must have come by a steamer. We have, of course, heard nothing as yet of the box you mention. I have now to congratulate you on your choice of a profession, and rejoice that the Lord has been pleased to incline your heart the way He has done. I trust, however, my dear Boy, that you have given your heart to Jesus Christ, to be His now and His for ever, to follow Him through good and through bad report.
The service in the Church in South Africa does not promise you much wealth nor ease in this world, but a field of usefulness as extensive as you could desire amongst a kind and indulgent people. I may now mention for your encouragement that I have for upwards of twenty-two years enjoyed much happiness in the work, and, I humbly trust, through the blessing of God have had some success in the same. You will also do well to remember that not a few pious students in divinity have been taken away before entering on their work, but where God has seen that it was in their heart to help to build Him a house. He has taken the will for the deed, and has taken them to Himself. If we seek to be prepared for death, that will be the best preparation for usefulness in life. I have not space to explain myself fully, but when you show this to Uncle he will do so vivâ voce.
I have just now seen the Rev. Mr. Berrangé, the minister of Maitland, (This is the place which in an earlier letter Mr. Murray called Uitvlugt. It is the present township of Richmond.) who came lately from Holland. He assures me you may study divinity a year or two in the Free Church of Scotland, and then go for a year or two to Holland, as much for the Dutch as for theology, and get licence and ordination for the Church at the Cape by a Commission appointed for that purpose in The Hague.
The elder and more reflective John seems to have been longer in reaching the decision to become a minister. It was not that he had any difficulty in conceding the paramount claims of the Christian ministry, but rather that his scrupulous mind regarded those claims as too exalted for his devotion and his strength. But he, too, after some oscillation, determined to devote himself to theology, and to prepare for licence as a minister of Jesus Christ in South Africa. His uncle’s influence, in assisting him to this decision, was probably almost as strong as his father’s; for John was always on terms of closer intimacy with Dr. John Murray than Andrew, though the latter was apparently the greater favourite with his aunt.
In the spring of 1845 the brothers simultaneously passed their final examination in arts, and graduated M.A. at Marischal College, Andrew being then not quite seventeen years old.
In the South African Commercial Advertiser of the 30th July, 1845, we read the following —
Marischal College and University, Aberdeen.
On Friday, the 4th of April, the degree of A.M. was conferred on several candidates after examination in the Evidences of Christianity, Latin, Greek, Natural History, Mathematics, Natural Philosophy, and Moral Philosophy and Logic, during seven days, among whom were —
Andrew Murray, Cape of Good Hope.
John Murray, Cape of Good Hope.
Of these candidates among the following were found entitled to honorable distinction, and in the following order of merit —
William Henderson, Aberdeen.
John Murray, Cape of Good Hope.
For an outline of the first book of the Tuscular Questions [? Tusculan
Disputations], with notes philosophical and critical —
John Murray, Cape of Good Hope.
It had been decided that the brothers should take their theological course at the university of Utrecht in Holland. They had now been absent from South Africa for seven years, and had almost forgotten the tongue of their native land. It was, therefore, highly necessary for them to spend some years in the Netherlands, in order to perfect themselves in Dutch. When matters were in train for their departure for Holland, their father addressed the following letter to them, dated 23rd April, 1845 —
Rev. Andrew Murray to his sons John and Andrew.
It afforded your mother, myself and friends sincere pleasure to learn from your Uncle's letter that you both seemed disposed to devote yourselves to the service of the sanctuary. As to John's former conscientious scruples, or rather fears of entering on the preparation for so sacred an office, I expressed my views so fully in my former letters that I need not now state them again. Since you have now made up your minds for this blessed service, oh! let me entreat you to lead watchful and prayerful lives, that you may be preserved from error in sentiment and from every deviation from the becoming line of conduct...
Whether this letter may find you in Aberdeen or in Holland is unknown to me. Allow me, however, to say that I liked Holland very much indeed. At first, being what the people termed an Engelschman, they overcharged me; but when I once knew a little of the language, and could enquire for myself, I lived cheap and comfortably. At Utrecht especially you can get two rooms, furnished, at a moderate rate, also your dinner sent from an eating-house, and the person who hires the rooms provides breakfast and supper, and brushes clothes, shoes, etc. I found this much cheaper and more comfortable than I had found boarding.
You may soon hear sentiments broached among the students, and even by professors, on theological subjects which may startle you, but be cautious in receiving them, by whatever names or number of names they may be supported. Try to act like the noble Bereans (Acts 17:11). By studying your Bibles and your own hearts I doubt not, under the guidance of the blessed Spirit, you will be led into all truth. One temptation you will be exposed to through companionship is the use of Hollands (alias gin) and water, and smoking tobacco or cigars. Do resist both these abominable customs. If necessary at any time, entertain your friends with tea or coffee, which are both excellent in Holland. Do not be afraid to be singular in such things...
Whatever books may be recommended to you, be sure not to neglect the study of the Holy Scriptures. This must be a daily exercise, and must be attended to with humility and much prayer for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Paley's Natural Theology and Evidences, Horne's Introduction and Witsius on the Covenants deserve to be studied. Get a copy of Egeling's Nadenkende Christen and study it with prayer... Mr. Faure writes me that the end of August is the time for being matriculated in the Hall at Utrecht...