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The Life of Andrew Murray of South Africa
Chapter VI. Further Visits to the Emigrants

It requires a person of much more spirituality and habitual intercourse with heaven than I have, to travel in this way, as there is so very seldom the regular opportunity for private devotion; and there is really nothing that can be a substitute for intercourse with God.— Andrew Murray.

MURRAY’S interest in the emigrant farmers being undiminished, he prepared in May, 1851, to cross the Vaal River for the third time. On this occasion he was accompanied by his brother John and the young wife of the latter. The visit was a hurried one and lasted less than four weeks. The only places visited were Potchefstroom and Rustenburg, where the newly-completed church edifices were duly dedicated to the service of God. As on former occasions large numbers flocked to the services, and the roomy churches were quite unable to contain the congregations. Loud were the laments which assailed Murray’s ear on the score of his refusal of their call. “ Are we to be always pastor less?” they cried, nor would they be comforted by the oft-repeated reminder, “The Lord will provide.”

The reason for so brief a tour is probably to be sought in the political situation. In every direction the horizon looked dark. The year 1851 was disastrous for the whole of South Africa. The Cape Colony had just been plunged into the Eighth Kaffir War—the longest, most sanguinary and most costly of its conflicts with the natives. Widespread unrest prevailed among native tribes in all parts of the country. The question of a boundary between the Basuto and their white neighbours was as far as ever from satisfactory settlement.

Matters wore indeed so threatening an aspect, that the British Resident felt himself compelled to summon all able bodied burghers to Bloemfontein for a punitive expedition against the Basuto chief.

The Boers of the Sovereignty, who believed that Major Warden would have been better advised to leave the native chiefs severely alone, and allow them to compose their own quarrels, made but a feeble response. Not more than 150 of the men who had been commandeered appeared upon the stated day. With these and 160 soldiers stationed at Bloemfontein, Major Warden proceeded towards Basutoland, being reinforced along the road by various native levies, numbering upwards of one thousand. At Viervoet, a mountain near the mission station of Mekuatling, this force sustained a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Basuto, and its scattered remnants were compelled to fall back upon Bloemfontein (30th June. 1851).

All efforts on the part of Major Warden to restore the prestige of the British name and British arms were without avail. The Boers could not be prevailed upon to form another commando and invite further defeats. The position in which the British Resident now found himself was unenviable in the extreme. Called to police a country as large as England, he found his authority practically limited by the bounds of the Bloemfontein commonage.

At this juncture the Boers in the Sovereignty who were still disaffected towards British rule, resolved upon a step which bordered on rebellion, and in less troublous times would certainly have been construed as such. They invited Andries Pretorius, still under sentence of outlawry, to cross the Vaal River and take upon himself the office of pacificator of the Sovereignty. They then proceeded to Moshesh, and on the 3rd September, 1851, concluded an agreement with him, by which he bound himself to leave the Boers and their possessions in peace, while they on their part promised to refrain from interference in tribal quarrels.

This sudden denouement in the political situation caused great excitement in Bloemfontein. Murray writes to his brother thereanent in the following terms—

Quite early on Saturday morning (27th September) Major Warden sent Mr. Allison 1 over to me to show me a letter from Andries Pretorius to the British Resident, informing him that he had been invited by Moshesh and the white inhabitants of the Sovereignty to come and act as mediator, and that he intended coming with nothing but the most peaceable intentions. The Maj or informed me of this because he wished to remove the 150 troops now at Winburg to this place, and wished me to assist him in getting waggons to bring Mr. van Velden also hither. As the removal of the troops would be the signal for general confusion, I went and urged the Major to leave the troops there. This matter is now not quite decided. I also saw two Boers, Linde and Vermaak,® who had been at Moshesh’s, and they gave me information about tbe state of matters at Winburg which amazed and distressed me. When they were at Moshesh’s there were some Boers begging the chief for a commando of Caffres to waylay and attack the troops who were on their way from Natal to this. You are aware that the more rebellious Boers have been instigating Molitzani to steal all the cattle of the adherents of the Government in Winburg district: they have been marked men. Those who are known as maatschappij men (men of the society) have had nothing stolen, or else everything returned as soon as they applied to Molitzani. Sikonyella, again, is the ally of the Government, and he has now begun stealing from the friends of Pretorius, who, of course, affirm that this is at the instigation of the Wessels’ and the Government people. A sad state of things truly!

Those farmers whose cattle have been stolen by Sikonyella have appealed to Andries Pretorius, together with large numbers of those in the Winburg district who are in any way dissatisfied with the Government. I believe that they sent on five different occasions to fetch him, but he has always refused. They have at length persuaded him to come. The consequence will be that he will so far mix himself with the enemies of the Government, that he will be obliged to assume a hostile position towards it, and will thus ensure vengeance on himself and his people. I do believe the man honestly intends to be a peacemaker. I see, however, that the rebel party on this side of the river have been flattering his ambition with the hope of getting a name if he succeed in acting as mediator.

But you will perhaps think that all this need not have excited me so much. I have, however, to tell you something more. I have resolved to go to the Vaal River, and try and get Pretorius to stay there. Do not think the matter a hasty resolution. I have thought and prayed much over it, and it appears my duty to try now to prevent what may be the cause of much bloodshed. The thought struck me on Saturday morning : what I heard from Linde and Vermaak made me doubt, and it was only this morning that I was able to decide. I was far from well yesterday. It will be very difficult to get horses; and I trust that my plans may in mercy be thwarted, if it be not the Lord’s will that I go. I feel the want of a friend on whose advice I can depend. Mr. Stuart is the only one, and he of course urges me to go.

The way was, however, opened, and Murray left for Mooi River, probably on the day following the writing of the above letter. A certain Adolph Coqui, a shopkeeper of Jewish-Belgian extraction, who was on his way thither, kindly gave Murray a seat in his cart; and thus journeying, with frequent detentions owing to heavy rain, he reached Potchefstroom on Saturday the 4th October. His mediation had the desired effect. Pretorius relinquished the idea of interfering in the affairs of the Sovereignty, and the disturbances which would have resulted from such a step were happily averted.

On that same day, and probably with Murray’s assistance, Pretorius addressed an important communication to Major Warden, expressing the desire of the Vaal River emigrants to enter into a lasting treaty of peace with the British Government. To this note the British Resident sent an amicable reply, stating that it lay beyond his province to arrange such a treaty as Pretorius proposed, but affirming his readiness to transmit to the High Commissioner any suggestions which the Boer leader might make. The British Government had by this time arrived at the tardy conclusion that it was futile work seeking to impose its rule over people who would have none of it. These views were shared by Sir Harry Smith, who accordingly appointed two Assistant Commissioners, Messrs. Hogge and Owen, to proceed to the Sovereignty, armed with large powers to settle matters generally.

The Commissioners reached Bloemfontein towards the close of 1851. One of their first acts was to issue a proclamation in the name of the High Commissioner, rescinding the sentence of outlawry passed on Pretorius, and withdrawing the offer of rewards for the apprehension of his proscribed followers. On the 3rd January, 1852, Murray writes—

The Commissioners have thought fit to take a good deal of my opinions on Transvaal matters, as well as on the state of things generally, and thus I often have an hour’s conversation with Major Hogge. You are aware that Pretorius has been pardoned. On the 16th instant it is intended to have a meeting a little beyond Sand River, for the Commissioners to receive twelve delegates from beyond the Vaal River. Major Hogge has requested me to be there to act as translator, as it is of consequence that they should have someone they understand well. I shall very likely go, as I feel that they might break upon some insignificant point, which a very little explanation might rectify.

From a letter to his brother it appears that Murray was able to carry out his intention to be present at this historical conference, at which the Transvaal people secured the acknowledgment of their independence. He left Bloemfontein on the 12th January, accompanied by his sister Maria, who, however, remained at Winburg while her brother proceeded on the further journey. There is, unfortunately, no extant account of his experiences and impressions at the conference. Suffice it to say that the meeting took place as arranged on the 16th January, and on the following day was signed the Sand River Convention, by which the British Government “ guaranteed to the emigrant farmers beyond the Vaal River the right to manage their own affairs, and to govern themselves according to their own laws, without any interference on the part of the British Government.” Thus closed an important chapter in the history of the Boer people, in which Murray played no insignificant part.

During the year 1852 there were two events in Murray’s career which stand out as of more than ordinary importance, his fourth visitation tour to the Transvaal, and his visit to Cape Town in order to attend the quinquennial2 meeting of the Church Synod. In the fourth tour to the north he covered more ground than on any previous occasion, his absence from Bloemfontein lasting just three months, from the ist March to the 3rd June. He was accompanied by his friend J. H. Neethling, minister of Prince Albert, whose companionship was a great relief to the inevitable monotony of ox-waggon travel, and to whose graphic pen we owe a very full description of the scenes and experiences they passed through. The route which they followed may be briefly described. Following the usual custom, they made directly for the village of Potchefstroom, on Mooi River ; then travelled eastwards to the Suikerbosch Rand, where the town of Heidelberg now stands; and from there journeyed in north-easterly direction to Lyden-burg. This was the course of Murray’s second tour, from which, however, they now proceeded to diverge. Bearing north for several days, they reached at length the most northerly settlement of whites then established in South Africa, that of the Potgieter party, in the Zoutpansbergen. From here they turned back, and travelling via the Warm Bath reached Rustenburg in the Magaliesberg Range; thence to the Morikwa (Marico) where the village of Zeerust has since arisen ; and from the Morikwa via Schoonspruit (now Klerksdorp) back to the Vaal River.

From the most interesting account of this extensive tour, across the length and breadth of the Transvaal, which Mr. Neethling has left us, we can make only a few extracts. The detention at Mooi River gives him the opportunity of offering us a vivid picture of what a religious gathering of Boers was like in by-gone days—

In the morning at 9 o’clock the congregation was assembled in the church—a building which is able to contain, in my estimation, some six hundred people. Every bit of space was occupied. The smallest empty spot was always large enough for a veldstoeltje, and no one objected to a little discomfort in the seating arrangements. With the exception of a wailing infant here and there, nothing disturbed the attention of the audience. The singing was powerful, the prayers unanimous. Every eye during the sermon was fixed upon the speaker; many a countenance bore witness to the most earnest attention. My brother’s preaching was simple, warm and sincere. The congregation understood him—that was plainly to be read in their faces.

At the close of the service each one takes up his veldstoeltje, places it under his arm, and proceeds to his tent. At the close of the series of services on Monday, the tents are quickly taken down, and within a brief space the last of the large number of waggons has borne its living freight away homewards. At one of the services ninety-seven children were baptized. By the carefulness of the churchwardens all the arrangements were carried out with an order and regularity which surpassed expectations. Very touchiifg did I find it when a couple of children presented their baptismal papers themselves. I cannot forget' the innocence which the face of one of them revealed. He was a blond child of some four years old. When he had handed me the paper containing his name, he closed his eyes, and awaited with sweet simplicity the sprinkling of the baptismal water.

Neither on this nor on any previous tours did ministers of the Gospel require to provide their own conveyances, or give themselves the least concern regarding travelling arrangements. These were the care of elders, deacons and friends generally. At no stage of the journey were Murray and Neethling without journeying companions. Murray indeed complains sometimes of the lack of privacy which he experienced. It was counted an honour to escort these servants of God for a day, two days, or even a week upon their journey. Beyond Suikerbosch Rand they had the company of the Rodolf family, in their own waggon, “to whom,” writes Neethling, “we owe heartiest thanks for a thousand kindnesses.” Commandant Frans Joubert and Field-comet Nel accompanied them a two days’ journey, as far as the ford of the Crocodile River, and displayed the most intense anxiety lest they should heedlessly venture into the unhealthy Zoutpansberg region. On leaving Rustenburg, at a later date, they had as guide and escort, Field-comet Paul Kmger, who in after years rose to eminence as President of the Transvaal Republic.

The start from Mooi River, and their further experiences on the road to Lydenburg, are thus described by Neethling—

Eight active oxen stand yoked before the waggon, and the journey in Transvaal territory commences. The immeasurable veld stretched before us. Zoutpansberg, the furthest point at which the courageous South African has ventured to settle, was the remotest place to which we desired to bear the seed of God’s Word. But what a distance ! Four weeks of almost incessant travel—of travel such as the ministers of our Church alone can compass, aided by the love of the congregation, with constant and rapid progress. I knew nothing of the country through which our journey lay. I knew only that we would sometimes travel for a whole week through territory quite uninhabited, or inhabited by Cafires only. I heard the valorous Boer make mention, with a show of respect, of the lion, which he sometimes calls the vuilbaard (dirty beard), but to which he cannot deny the crowning virtue of bravery. Not infrequently I listened to stories about the fierceness of the buffalo and the ill-temper of the rhinoceros, and those places were carefully described where animals like these would prove a menace to our journey. Then again I heard of an evil to be still more dreaded —the yellow fever, which demands the extremest circumspection.

After a wearying day’s journey we enjoyed many an hour of quiet rest, sitting around a bright and steady fire, or lying lengthwise in the soft grass. Each of our journeying companions knows what he has to do. The “sexton” at night time hands us the Book, and we express in brief devotions the gratitude which we feel towards God for His continual care. Thereafter I many an evening still lay talking to our fellow-travellers about hunting experiences and hair-breadth escapes ; and their narratives frequently gave me cause to marvel at the courage, strength and activity of the Dutch-African race, and as frequently to praise the love and goodness of a protecting God.

Our journey was rendered both speedy and pleasant by the great kindness of those farmers who dwelt along the road. This kindness must have been very noticeable, for it drew the attention even of April, the native who leads our oxen. I see him yet, sitting at the fireside, where I fell into conversation with him. Seated on the ground with his chin resting on his knees, he regarded us fixedly for a long time, and then remarked, in his broken Dutch, that we must surely be very great chiefs, since he everywhere observed the Boer bazen (masters) remove their hats', and invite us to enter their dwellings. Yes, long before we had arrived, a new span of oxen was already collected in the kraal, and as soon as we approached they were yoked to the waggon, and the master called out April, loop! (April, hasten!) The natives can find no explanation of this eager politeness, than on the supposition that we are great chiefs.

The respect shown to us as preachers of the Gospel makes an equally deep impression on the natives. On a former occasion my friend [i.e. Andrew Murray] was conducting services in this vicinity. A Cafire, who was no longer a stranger to the customs of white folk, observed him narrowly while preaching. Now, as everyone knows, my friend is not the quietest of preachers. The native understood not a single word, but recorded his impression of the scene in these words: "I never thought that the white men stood in such dread of their chiefs. Look at the young chief yonder (i.e. Murray). He points his finger at the people : they sit quiet. He threatens them : they sit quiet still. He storms and rages at them: they sit as quiet as death!”

In the northern and eastern portions of the Transvaal, which are quite cool and healthy during the dry winter months, malarial fever is exceedingly prevalent after the tropical summer rains. Even under modern conditions, when the prophylactic properties of quinine are known and utilized to the full, malaria claims many victims, and in those early [years the ravages of the disease were extremely severe. Such was the case in 1852. It was a deadly year, especially for those emigrants who had settled in the low-lying parts, and were shut in by lofty mountains. Murray had faithfully promised to visit the small community of trekkers who owned Potgieter as leader, and who had established themselves on the southern slopes of the Zoutpansberg Range. But the news spread southwards that the Potgieter party was suffering from repeated attacks of fever, and that several individuals had already succumbed. The young ministers were strongly advised not to adventure themselves into such unhealthy regions. They pointed out, however, that word had already been passed and arrangements made, and that they therefore felt bound to continue their journey. Their anxious friends then stipulated that, should the Zoutpansberg people fail to meet them, as arranged at the ford of the Crocodile River, or should it appear that the disease was still spreading, the travellers were not to proceed further northwards. To this stipulation Murray and Neethling agreed. But waggons and oxen were found waiting for them at the tryst, the malady appeared to be abating, and those sent to fetch them evinced such eagerness that, even had they desired to turn back, the pathetic condition, of the stricken community would have beckoned them forward.

After travelling almost uninterruptedly for eleven days from Lydenburg, they reached the Zoutpansbergen on the gth April, and were received with every manifestation of joy. The little band of emigrants had sustained heavy losses. Out of 150 souls, all told, twenty-four had fallen before the dread disease, and of these no less than eighteen were cut off within a fortnight. There was no home which was not plunged in mourning; and this circumstance, together with the fact that the majority of these isolated people had been without the ordinances of religion for many years, contributed to make the visit of the two pastors a solemn and searching time. “For the poor people of Zoutpansberg,” writes Murray, "it was a veritable feast, the very children rejoicing at they hardly knew what. Nine waggons accompanied us to the lager, and on arrival we found other fifty standing there. The knowledge of the candidates for membership was very considerable, and out of forty applicants twenty-four were accepted. Three children brought for baptism were over the age prescribed by Church law—two were nine years old, and one was thirteen—but forty were admitted to the solemn rite. We did not dispense the Lord’s Supper, on account of the state in which many of the people live, though I must confess that I was agreeably disappointed in not finding them so careless as was represented.” At Murray’s suggestion the congregation, having assembled on a certain evening for the purpose, followed a well-known apostolic precedent, and “ selected elders by show of hands.”1 After thus providing the community with (ruling) bishops and leaders, and commending them to the grace of God, the two travellers bade their friends farewell and turned their faces southwards.

In the course of the return journey they met, at the Warm Bath, Commandant Potgieter himself, who was there seeking rest and restoration from the malady to which, in less than a twelvemonth, he was to fall a victim. Murray describes him as “a very venerable-looking old mail,” and [Neethling’s picture is, "a man of tall stature and venerable countenance, wholly built to be a commander, though now somewhat bent under the weight of years and increasing physical weakness.” Potgieter professed his profound gratitude that God had at length answered his petitions, and had made possible this pastoral visit to his poor neglected people in the north.

From the full records of this tour we make but one more abbreviated extract. It is from a letter of Murray’s, describing their experiences in the Magaliesbergen. To his sister Maria.

On Friday [30th April] we entered the lower part of the Magaliesberg country, and though travelling through the least populated portion we soon found sad traces of the sickness. In a small patch of country behind the Mountain some thirty people had been carried off, and there were still a great many ill. I found many very deeply impressed under the chastening hand of God. We remained at Rustenburg for more than a week. After preaching thrice on Sabbath, we held services twice every week-day—once in the early morning and once in the evening. As John Neethling took the catechumens, I expected to have plenty of free time for myself. I was, however, disappointed. The continual friendly calls of the people, and regular visits to seven or eight sick folk, kept me uninterruptedly occupied. There were also several cases of people in apparent anxiety of soul, but groping in great darkness; and I felt it a privilege to have so much occasion for offering Jesus to individuals, although the evening often found me thoroughly worn out.

Two or three cases really refreshed me. One was that of a young woman who had lost her father and two of her little ones, and had herself been lying upon a long and painful sick-bed. The exceeding simplicity of her faith, and her childlike language with respect to death and heaven, edified me greatly. Another case was that of a young man whom I rode some eighteen miles to see. I found him seeking and apparently anxious. I tried especially to enforce the truth that Christ is ours by gift; that we have but to accept, to believe “He is mine,” and we are saved. After prayer I bade him good-bye, as we intended leaving very early next morning. In the evening he sent for me, and on my arrival said that he wished simply to say that he had found Christ. With great emphasis he repeated the words, "God has given Christ to me: I have found my Saviour.” He then expressed the wish to depart and to be delivered from this world of sin. When I last heard of him he was still living, but very weak.

At Mooi River I had to perform the painful duty of visiting a criminal, Pieterse, under sentence of death for murdering a neighbour. He has been sentenced after a trial by jury, and the sentence only waits for the confirmation of the Volksraad to be executed. Poor man, he appeared to deceive himself with some hope of pardon as a ground for postponing conversion.

The case referred to in the last paragraph is one of the most remarkable in the annals of justice in South Africa. Mr. Jacobus Stuart, who as one-time Secretary of the Volksraad had every means of knowing the facts, tells us that Pieterse had, in a bout of drunken frenzy, murdered his nephew Oosthui-zen. Seized with remorse, he had voluntarily surrendered himself to the Landdrost of Potchefstroom. This official, calling together his fellow-councillors forming the Heemraden, instituted a careful trial and found Pieterse guilty of murder. Sentence of death could by the law of the land only be passed by the Volksraad, and to this body the case was accordingly referred. What could they do? Drunkenness and subsequent remorse were mitigating circumstances, but they could not grant release from the divine law, “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed.” The Volksraad therefore passed the death sentence. But who would carry it into execution? A gallows did not exist in the whole land. To entrust the execution of the sentence to an Englishman was undesirable, to entrust it to a native was impossible. The Field-cornets met together and decided that, as they were responsible for the maintenance of law and order, the execution of the condemned man was their duty. Lots were cast and three men were thus chosen to perform the dread act. Troops of friends visited Pieterse in his cell, to mourn with him, to comfort him and to pray for him. On the appointed day he took a friendly farewell of his judges, and it was a friend’s hand that inflicted upon him the last penalty of the law.

Murray returned to Bloemfontein in the beginning of June, 1852. Little though he thought it, this was the last pastoral visit he was destined to pay to the congregations across the Vaal River. By a singular conjunction of circumstances the ties which bound him to the Transvaal people were suddenly and finally severed. In describing briefly these circumstances it is necessary to anticipate somewhat the true order of events, but the reasons which henceforth barred Murray’s way to the north are best set forth at this stage.

In the month of November, 1852, there landed in South Africa a man who was to play a remarkable part in the ecclesiastical history of the Transvaal. This was the Rev. Dirk van der Hoff, a Hollander, who at the instance of a certain Professor1 Lauts came to South Africa with the definite object of ministering to the pastorless voortrekkers. A few weeks before his arrival the Synod of the D. R. Church was in session at Cape Town. On hearing that a young minister was shortly expected, to labour among the emigrants, the Synod pointed out that Professor Lauts held no authority to appoint ministers for the D. R. Church of South Africa, and that Mr. van der Hoff, before he could be recognized as pastor of Potchefstroom (or any other charge), would have to conform to the rules and regulations of the D. R. Church. The attention of van der Hoff was specially directed to two conditions upon which alone his appointment could be considered valid—he must, by signing the formularies of the D.jR. Church, indicate his adhesion to the doctrines which the Church held, and thus receive “legitimation” (as the technical expression runs), and he must have been regularly invited to Potchefstroom by a formal “letter of call” from the consistory of the congregation. These conditions van der Hoff, on his arrival, fulfilled, so that the call could be duly sustained.

It was near the end of May, 1853, before van der Hoff reached his destination. According to Presbyterian Church law a minister’s connexion with his congregation takes effect from the date of his being formally inducted or introduced by the brother minister who has been acting as pastor of the vacant congregation, and who in the D. R. Church is known as the consulent. Andrew Murray, who had visited Potchef-stroom on four different occasions, and who therefore stood towards that congregation in every sense in loco pastoris, was the acknowledged consulent of Potchefstroom. On him therefore devolved the duty of inducting van der Hoff, and the date for that ceremony was provisionally fixed for the 31st July,1853.

On the 15th June preceding, van der Hoff addressed the following letter to Murray—

I have to-day received a communication from the Landdrost and Heemraden of this congregation, in which I am informed that the joint Krijgsmad (War Council) has resolved, together with two members of the Volksraad, Messrs. S. Krieger and M. H. Pretorius, and at the earnest request of Elder Snyman of Rustenburg, “ to call together a general assembly on the second Monday of August, in order to discuss the question of Rev. van der Hoff’s induction.” They have also requested the Volksraad to hold its session at the same time, and have invited all consistories and all sensible people who are interested in the matter. On account of this action we request Your Reverence to postpone your visit somewhat longer.

We can imagine the amazement with which Murray, who had some inkling of what was going on behind the scenes, perused this document. The congregations in the Transvaal had been regarded from the first as forming part of the D. R. Church of Cape Colony; the ordinances of religion had been administered to them by clergymen of that Church; they had presented a practically unanimous call to a minister of that Church, Murray himself; at their own request they had recently been incorporated by Synodical decision (21st October, 1852) into the D. R. Church; their minister designate, Mr. van der Hoff, had just solemnly signified his assent to the doctrines and promised obedience to the laws of the said Church —and here were congregations and people preparing to cut the bonds which united them to the Church of their fathers.

At Rustenburg, on the 8th August, 1852, the Volksraad and the General Assembly, in separate session, arrived at resolutions of similar import, namely to sever their connexion with the D. R. Church of the Cape. The reasons adduced were two only: "(i) The conditions, or promises, of supplying us with ministers have not been fulfilled ; and (2) We cannot submit to the ecclesiastical laws of the D. R. Church of South Africa.” In this manner arose the separatist body known as “de Nederduitsch Hervormde Kerk” of the Transvaal, so named in contradistinction to the historical Church from which it had broken away, viz. “ de Nederduitsch Gereformeerde Kerk ”—both titles being precisely equivalent to “ the Dutch Reformed Church.”

Whether van der Hoff was ever legally inducted is doubtful. The question gave rise to considerable friction and heartburning, as the following letter testifies—

Potchefstroom, 8th September, 1853.

To the Rev. D. van Velden,


Rev. Sir,—A rumour is in circulation among us that you have said, in the presence of several individuals, that Mr. van der Hofi, minister here, must be inducted by Mr. Murray or yourself, and that, if no intimation as to the date of such induction were received from this side, Your Reverence would not leave it at that, but would come hither, uninvited, with Rev. Murray, and then would like to see if the induction would not be held. Now though we give no credence to those rumours, it might occur that Your Reverence (either alone or accompanied by Rev. Murray) could come hither with the aforesaid purpose, namely the induction of Rev. van der Hofi, minister here; and it is on this account that we must advise you to refrain from such a journey, which will be in vain, since the highest Church body and the highest political authority in these territories have decided that the induction shall not take place. The Rev. van der Hofi being a legally ordained minister of the Dutch Reformed Church (" Nederduitsch Gereformeerde Kerk ’’), his presentation or induction is unnecessary. .

[Signed by] A. Smit,

G. V. Schoeman,

H. H. Lombard, Landdrost.

To this missive Mr. van Velden sent the following reply1—

Winburg, 14th September, 1853.

Dear Friends,—Your communication of the 8th inst. reached me the day before yesterday, and I would have replied by return post, but was prevented through being occupied all day with the examination of young people for confirmation.

In answer I must say that I was extremely surprised to see that you give response to what you do not believe. You speak of rumours. Well, of that there is no lack, and the most singular and extraordinary rumours frequently course through the country. To that category belongs also the rumour of which you make mention in your letter. You acted wisely in not giving credence to it, but your response to the same makes me fear that a certain amount of credence has nevertheless disturbed your minds. This makes me hasten to set you at ease.

With reference to the visit of my brother Murray, whom I saw recently, I do not believe that His Rev*, has the least intention of again visiting you. Your fear of such a visit I therefore believe to be quite groundless. It is true, he intended coming, because the congregations across the Vaal having made earnest application to belong (with the other congregations) to the Synod of our Church, brothers Murray and Neethling had secured the consent of the Synod to your application. Your congregations accordingly were added to the Presbytery of Trans-gariep (Trans-orange), and the Rev. A. Murray, as consulent of the Transvaal congregations, was to have inducted your minister. The information you now impart excites my astonishment. You have decided that your minister is not to be inducted, because His Reverence is a legally ordained minister of the Dutch Reformed Church. Very good. But are you not aware that in Holland every minister, even though he be already ordained, must nevertheless be presented by the consulent to every congregation in which he desires to labour ? Are you not aware that the same procedure has always been followed, and still obtains, in our D. R. Church in South Africa ?

So far as I am concerned, if I had been appointed as your minister, I would have acted as I actually did on coming to Winburg—I would have confined myself to preaching, and would have postponed the administration of the Sacraments until such time as I had been duly presented or inducted by the consulent of the congregation. For all that, when I arrived in South Africa I had already been eight years ordained. In your letter you speak of two bodies which are wholly unknown to me. First, you mention the highest Church Body. Now,

I know of no higher ecclesiastical authority among you than the consistories of the various congregations. Presbytery or Synod does not, so far as I know, exist across the Vaal. A very comfortable state, for there is now no tribunal whatever to try either a minister, should he transgress in doctrine or conduct, or a member of the consistory. And yet the danger of such transgression is great already and will become ever greater. In our days, too, we should remember Philippians iii.

Well, this is none of my business. If you wish for no ecclesiastical tribunal other than one which has jurisdiction over members of the congregation, but not over ministers and members of consistory, then I can only hope that things will move smoothly among you. For my part I desire, as honest man, as Christian, and as a servant of Him who will have all things done decently and in order, an ecclesiastical tribunal that there; may be a legal authority, in case any minister can be convicted of false doctrine or evil conduct. An honourable and faithful minister will never be afraid of such a tribunal. A minister who fears it is not a man whom I can trust. Enough. You speak of your highest Church Body. That Body decides as to the induction or non-induction of your minister, and your minister acquiesces—he who is himself chairman and head of your only Church Body, the consistory. Truly, I am not able to understand that. I shall place it in the category of things too high and wonderful for me.

You make mention, in your communication, of another body— namely, the highest political authority. What ! does political authority decide ecclesiastical matters for you? Poor Church, that must bow beneath the world. The Gospel of my Saviour does indeed teach me to reverence the powers that are ordained of God, and I desire to pray for them ; but the same Gospel forbids me absolutely to permit the Church of Christ to cringe to the world or worldly authority. That Church is free under her Head and King. That Church is exalted far above the world and the authority which the world wields. So far as I am concerned (in this matter I cannot speak for Brother Murray—he is well able to do that for himself), if I were consulent of your congregation, and had to come and induct your minister, I would have vouchsafed not a syllable in reply to a letter on ecclesiastical matters, in which your highest political authority had intervened. Finally, I pray for you with all my soul that the Lord of the Church would richly fill your country with orthodox, faithful and God-fearing ministers, that under their guidance and their instruction, sanctified to the heart by the Spirit of God, you may learn greatly to esteem ministers like the never-to-be-forgotten Murray ; for it is they whose case the Lord will judge. See I Thessalonians v. 12,13. May the Lord in mercy shield you from the judgments which might overtake you and your children because of the shameful abuse with which you have visited the minister of Bloemfontein. May He richly endow you with the spirit of humility, and of wise sagacity and circumspection, in order that you may be preserved from actions which might result in eternal detriment to yourselves and your poor descendants. Proverhs xii. 15 and xix. 20.

I have the honour to subscribe myself,

Your obedient servant and friend,

D. van Velden, V.D.M.

Enough has been said on Murray’s relations towards the Transvaal congregations to show that his was not the hand which severed the bonds that united him closely to the people beyond the river. The schism was due less to religious than to political motives. Ministers from Holland, though strangers to the customs and the vernacular speech of South Africa, were less objectionable to the Republicans than men of their own country and their own tongue, who owed allegiance to the British flag. Of this unsympathetic attitude towards ministers of the Cape Church the Hollander element took full advantage. It is difficult to determine how far the final decision to sever connexion with the Cape Synod was due to the influence of van der Hoff, and how far it resulted from the determination of the people themselves to achieve ecclesiastical as well as political independence.

Two matters, however, are perfectly clear. The first is this, that if the ecclesiastical schism was occasioned by political motives, it occasioned in its turn prolonged political dissensions. The evidence for this statement is unimpeachable. Dr. Theal, the South African historian, says: “The resolution that the Church of the Republic should be independent of the Synod of the Cape Colony was a question which divided the people into two factions, and was discussed with as much bitterness in 1857 as four years earlier. The ecclesiastical dispute brought on a change in the political condition of the country.” That this change was not for the better but for the worse is shown by the Transvaal historian, Mr. F. Lion Cachet, who observes: "The Transvalers were divided into two parties, not by questions of doctrine, but by a question of Church government. The ecclesiastical schism had the effect of both leading up to and hastening the political schism which followed shortly after. Lydenburg, which in matters ecclesiastical had renewed its connexion with the Cape Synod, was served by ministers who belonged to that Synod ; while the minister [van der Hoff] who was salaried out of the public funds and officially acknowledged by the Volksraad, received his congS from the Lydenburg congregation. . . . The meetings held did not always end peacefully. Excitement ran high, and the two chief parties, as yet but loosely united, were led forward from ecclesiastical to political disunion.”

Another point in this unhappy history stands out clearly. It is this, that though van der Hoff may not have been primarily responsible for the schism (as he always denied that he was), he nevertheless displayed the greatest activity in spreading it. At the so-called “General Assembly” at Rustenburg, which decided for separation from the Cape Synod, the consistory of Lydenburg was unrepresented, and it refused at first to identify itself with the separatist movement. Van der Hoff, however, succeeded in persuading the Lydenburgers to believe that the Cape Synod stood under the supervision of the British Government, that ministers of the Cape Church were obliged to take an oath of allegiance to the Queen, that Cape ecclesiastical law placed whites and blacks upon a footing of equality, and that no modifications in the Church’s laws and regulations would be granted to the congregations of the Transvaa ; and by these arguments he prevailed upon them to cast off their allegiance to the mother Church. But they soon repented of their ill-considered action, presented the disingenuous van der Hoff with his discharge from the office of consulent, and asked with much penitence to be re-admitted to communion with the Cape Church. Their prayer was granted. The grievances which van der Hoff had sought to create in their minds were shown to be without foundation. They were presently incorporated in the Presbytery of Transgariep (i.e. Orange River), and so re-united to the body from which they had temporarily seceded. And in this manner was the D. R. Church of South Africa re-established in the Transvaal territory, where it has not merely maintained itself until this day, but has steadily grown in numbers and influence, until now it holds the premier position among ecclesiastical bodies north of the Vaal.

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