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The Life of Andrew Murray of South Africa
Chapter XIV. Conferences and Revivals

I want you to remember what a difference there is between Perfection and Perfectionism. The former is a Bible truth : the latter may or may not be a human perversion of that truth. I fear much that many, in their horror of Perfectionism, reject Perfection too. Andrew Murray.

From the day of Pentecost downwards revivals of religion, as a matter of history, have had far more influence on the theology of the Church than historians of dogma have recognized.-—P. Carnegie Simpson.

IN South Africa until well past the middle of the nineteenth century, young men who desired to follow the learned professions, as barristers or doctors, ministers or teachers, could only qualify themselves for their chosen career by prosecuting their studies in European universities. The intellectual life of the community was almost exclusively nourished on books and magazines written by the thinkers of Britain, America and the Continent of Europe. A young people like the colonists of the Cape, just awakened to self-realization, and only commencing to exercise its newly-acquired powers of self-government, is especially sensitive to impressions from without. The seventh and eighth decades of the nineteenth century were formative years for the South African people. The public mind was engaged in grappling with great political questions like confederation and native policy, and with important social problems such as education for the masses and the suppression of drunkenness and vice. Everywhere could be discerned the signs of awakening life. And in consciously feeling their way to a solution of the problems that confronted them, the colonists were unconsciously influenced by the spirit of the age as it revealed itself in the intellectual atmosphere of Europe and America.

In like manner the religious life of the Cape was profoundly influenced by that of the mother-countries whence its population had been originally drawn. In reviewing the condition of religion the most important factor to be considered is undoubtedly the Dutch Reformed Church. The census of 1875 shows that the D. R. Church counted in that year three times as many members as all other Protestant bodies combined (143,000 as against 47,500), and as it formed a compact body, representing the Dutch-speaking section of the population, it wielded by far the most powerful spiritual influence. Under the old regime—a relic of the days of “ John Company ” —the Church showed little vitality ; but after it* succeeded in freeing itself from the fetters of Government patronage and interposition, it began to engage in new activities. It was, of course, still influenced by the rise and fall of spiritual life in the Churches of the northern hemisphere. When the older churches enjoyed seasons of refreshment from the Lord, the D. R. Church shared in the blessing and was likewise visited with gracious revivals. And when under the balefuj blast of rationalism the home Churches languished, the colonial Church was threatened with a corresponding enfeeblement of its spiritual strength. This dependence of the daughter church upon the mother-churches of Holland and Scotland was not merely a faint Limitation of their virtues and their vigour. It was rather an instance of the working of the law of solidarity, and an exemplification of the truth that "whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it, or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.” The D. R. Church gave forth no mere indistinct echo of truths voiced elsewhere: it possessed its own school of prophets, to which it was given to proclaim divine truth in authoritative accents, and of this school Andrew Murray was the chief and most honoured teacher. We. have had glimpses of the way along which he was led to an appreciation of the truths of what was called the “Higher, Life,” It is sufficient to recall the remarkable experience which he passed through when detained at Paul Kruger’s farm in the Magaliesberg, concerning which he wrote: “The thought of the blessing of the indwelling Spirit appears so clear, the prospect of being filled with Him at moments so near, that I almost feel sure we would yet attain this happiness. The wretchedness of the uncertain life we mostly lead, the certainty that it cannot be the Lord’s pleasure to withhold from His bride the full communion of His love, the glorious prospect of what we could be and do if truly filled with the Spirit of God,—all this combines to force one to be bold with God and say, ‘I will not let Thee go except Thou bless me.’"

Mr. Murray had made great advances since 1862 in his practical experience of, and teaching concerning, the life of sanctification. During his visit to Scotland in 1877 he frequently deplored the fact that so few ministers had advanced beyond the preaching of elementary truths, and that Christians in general were “terribly afraid of perfectionism.” In South Africa he felt himself more and more constrained to urge upon his ministerial brethren the duty and privilege of entire consecration. In 1876, under the stimulus of the Oxford 1 Holiness Movement which is connected with the name of Pearsall Smith, conferences were held in various towns of South Africa— L at Cape Town (attended among others by Major Malan), at Tulbagh, at Piquetberg, at Adelaide, and elsewhere—which' had for their object, not merely the conversion of the unconverted, but the deepening of the spiritual life of believers.

In some cases special conferences were held for ministers, either separately from or concurrently with revival services in individual congregations. A typical conference of this kind, from which great blessing flowed, took place at Coles-berg in 1879. The invitation which Mr. Murray issued to his brethren on this occasion contained the following sentences to indicate the object and scope of the gathering—

The need for gatherings such as this is generally acknowledged. When brother ministers meet each other at ecclesiastical meetings and ceremonies, it is exceedingly difficult to devote more than a couple of hours to brotherly intercourse. The minister of the Word of God, however, has very special need of hearing words of cheer and encouragement, in view of his high calling, the awful responsibility resting upon him, and the heavenly provision of grace and strength for all his labours. Opportunities for such meetings are few and far between in our land with its great distances. In the Western Province we have been able to meet once and again, and never without carrying home a great blessing.

The blessing consists not merely in the interchange of thought. It is a well-known fact that in proportion as the unity of the body is exhibited and fostered in love and fellowship, the unity of the Spirit is also experienced more powerfully. Where the Spirit of God is found working with power, visions are instantaneously obtained which otherwise would only have come after the lapse of years, and we are strengthened to acts of faith and consecration for which we have longed, and longed in vain, for many months past. That is because the Lord has said, " Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there I am in the midst of them.” Solitude, however indispensable, is not sufficient. "God speaks to companies of men as He never speaks to solitary watchers or students ; there is a fuller tone, an intenser fervour, in pentecostal revelations than in personal communion, and, as we ourselves know, there is a keener joyin sympathy than can be realized in the devoutest solitude.”

The Colesberg Conference was attended by sixteen ministers, which for those days, when near neighbours were sixty or a hundred miles distant from each other, and the only means of travel was a cart and horses, must be considered as exceedingly encouraging. The portion of Scripture which Mr. Murray read at the opening meeting became the subject of the whole conference—John xx. 19-23. In meditating on the words Then were the disciples glad, the question was propounded whether this joy is an enduring joy. One brother affirmed that when a Christian has been unfaithful, and conscience arises to accuse him, this joy cannot endure. To this Mr. Murray made reply that it is possible instantly to confess this unfaithfulness, to claim the power of Christ’s atonement, and so to recover the joy that has been lost. Many of the brethren present still ventured to doubt whether such a life of faith, and such undisturbed peace and joy, were really attainable, and asked whether this was not an ideal that could not be realized on this side of the grave. It was a great encouragement to all when one of the older ministers present, Rev. du Plessis of Cradock, pointed out that even saints of the old covenant knew by experience something of this life of faith, and thereupon read out the metrical version of Psalm lxxxix. 15, 16: “Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound; they shall walk, O Lord, in the light of Thy countenance: in Thy name shall they rejoice all the day.” While these verses were being read, so our informant tells us, "it became clear to us that this life of faith, although high, was already known to the saints under the old dispensation, and therefore must surely be attainable by saints under the new. The realization of this truth led to more prayer.”

The Colesberg Conference, as we have said, was merely typical of other similar gatherings, and the above account has been quoted in order to lead up to the acknowledgment that Mr. Murray’s teachings about the higher Christian life were subjected to close scrutiny, even by men who were in fullest sympathy with his aims, and did not secure immediate or universal approval. Shortly after the close of this Conference a letter signed “K” appeared in the Kerkbode, which was of the following import—

To Brother C.

Dear Brother,—I cannot refrain from expressing my joy at the report concerning your congregation which you have laid before the Presbytery ; and at the report not only of your congregation, but also of others, couched in the same strain, which tell of the work of God’s grace in your midst. The glad sound of those reports was sweet and refreshing music in my ears. You have done well in not maintaining silence and keeping everything for yourself. Now your report reaches the whole Church and carries a blessing wherever it is read.

I have also perused with great interest the account in the Kerkbode of the Ministers’ Conference at Colesberg, at which you, too, were present. How gladly I would have been one of yonr number. The great distance was the reason which prevented me from being there, and from being edified as you were. I understand that you have both learned much and enjoyed much; and therefore I turn to you with a difficulty I have experienced with reference to a matter on which the brethren there seemed to be agreed. It is the question of the abiding joy whjch children of God can reach and maintain even after having been unfaithful. Instantaneous confession of unfaithfulness followed by an immediate return of the experience of joy!? Substitute for the word unfaithfulness a definite sin. Take for example Peter’s case as described in Galatians ii. 11-14. Peter had played the hypocrite; he had seduced Barnabas and others; he had grieved Paul and given ofience to those who were weak in the faith. What then? Suppose him to have instantaneously confessed his sin to the Lord, and to have recovered his joy. Does that immediately remove the grief and the ofience to which his action has given rise? I cannot think so.

Take a common case. A Christian owes a shopkeeper money on account, and promises to settle on a certain day, but does not keep his promise, and for a long time says not a word about the matter. The name and the cause of Christ suffer grievous dishonour, and Christians in general are calumniated. And are we to believe that the person who is the cause of all this is living in the experience of abiding joy? My own opinion of the matter is that there can be no question of joy before atonement has been claimed and appropriated ; and that this cannot take place before the ofience has been removed and reparation made. I can only expect to recover the joy of God’s salvation after the brother has been reconciled whom I have offended and grieved by my sin. I write this because, in spite of all the good results which flow from Ministers’ Conferences and special services—at which I rejoice with you—this matter has caused me much concern and anxiety.

To this letter Mr. Murray replied—

Dear Brother K,—It seems to me that you do not distinguish carefully between the unfaithfulness of which we spoke at the Conference and the definite sin of which you speak. There is no one who will not agree with you that if I fail to pay my account and utter no word of explanation, there can be no joy in the Lord. Sin must be confessed, not only to God, but also to my fellow-man against whom I have sinned. So in the case of Peter. After the public transgression a public return was necessary to the truth which he had denied. Then only, but then also immediately, there could be restoration to the full enjoyment of God’s favour.

But we were speaking of something very different, of something that is much more difficult for the man who is seeking to abide in the joy of the Lord. Even an unconverted man knows that he must act honestly, and pay his bills, and avoid all hypocritical dealings. And for the Christian these duties are imperative and indispensable. But even believers under the old dispensation had already learnt to “walk in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.’" The piety of the New Testament demands something higher and more glorious. Over and above the blameless walk, which is the preparation for it, the New Testament desires to free us from the spirit of bondage to fear, and to elevate us to the glorious liberty of the children of God, in which we shall rejoice all the day in the love and fellowship of the Father. It was of this walk that we spoke at the Conference.

One of the brethren, who knew through grace how great was the importance of a conscientious walk, complained that what disturbed the enduring joy in his life and appeared to make it impossible, was the unfaithfulness of his daily life—in the practice of private prayer, in purity and concentration of mind, and in the fulfilment of official duties. Even when preserved by God’s grace from definite sin, the list of daily shortcomings appeared to him to be so great, that so long as conscience was alive and active there was no possibility of experiencing uninterrupted joy for a single day. It was in this connexion that the observation was made that there is a glorious provision for the man who really yields himself to remain constantly in the light and love of the Lord. On the one hand the Christian must trust in the Lord Jesus to make him faithful (Jer. xxxii. 40), that is, to keep him ; and on the other hand, at the instant that he is conscious of shortcoming, due to lack of watchfulness or other causes, he may at once obtain and become conscious of forgiveness and restoration to the peace and the love of the Lord.

In some cases very much sharper criticisms than the above were levelled at the doctrines which Mr. Murray preached, and the congregation to which he ministered was closely observed, in order to discover whether the higher teaching was exemplified in higher conduct. And if the slightest discordance arose between profession and practice, there were critics enough to remark it and foes enough to denounce it. On one occasion the consistory of Wellington arranged for two meetings of the members of the congregation to be held on the same day—a forenoon meeting to discuss the raising of a sustentation fund for the minister’s salary, and an afternoon conference to consider the subject of the higher spiritual life. A report of this double gathering appeared in one of the secular papers, and provoked the following letter from a person signing himself "V. D. M.”—

To Rev. A. Murray.

Dear Brother,—I have read with much interest the report, appearing in the Zuid Afrikaan of June 29 last, of the Sustentation Meeting and Congregational Conference. In that report there was much at which I rejoiced ; but I wish also to mention what failed to please me. The “higher spiritual life” is a matter to which the attention of your congregation has been for so long drawn, that we may reasonably expect to see some of its fruits. But I observe that you have to toil as much as any other minister in order to raise money. I am no opponent of the “ higher spiritual life." By God’s grace I know something of it, and I cry to the Lord continually to bring me and all God’s children to the full enjoyment of what Christ has secured for His own. Not long ago I heard that you had expressed your belief that there were many in your congregation who had reached full surrender or complete consecration. I must honestly confess that my observation leads me to conclude that there may be higher spiritual talk combined with lower spiritual conduct.

According to the report, the meeting on the sustentation fund was to commence at 9. But the old story repeats itself—people are slow at attending a meeting where money matters are to be discussed. At 9.30 there are only forty members in the church. The bell is rung a second time. Now there are about one hundred members present, out of a total membership of one thousand and fifty. This is precisely what we all experience in our own parishes—the most religious members are the last to attend meetings like this, and when they do come they occupy the backmost pews. You express your desire to see a sum of ^1,500 raised, but are in doubts whether the project is feasible. A couple of members wish the matter to be postponed for certain reasons, one being “because there is no fear that their minister will leave them,” and another, “because such lean people do not die soon.” The same brother who spoke thus said at the afternoon gathering that he had some three months ago surrendered himself unreservedly to God. One brother offered to give £40 on condition that five others did the same, but after a good deal of discussion no one came forward. The end of the matter was—just as it usually is with us also—that it was decided to issue subscription lists, and to take them round from house to house. So ends the Sustentation Meeting.

Now what about the Congregational Conference? “On this occasion,” runs the report, “there was a much better attendance of the congregation than in the forenoon.” The first speaker is the brother who threw cold water on your scheme at the forenoon meeting. Of other speakers there is no lack. Unconditional surrender, full consecration, the rest of faith are household words. The conference of the afternoon is as highly spiritual as the sustentation meeting of the forenoon was highly unspiritual. I thank God that members of our congregations are beginning to use such language, and to show that they have some experimental knowledge of these matters. But are the happenings of the day satisfactory? How greatly could I have desired that the morning gathering had been other than it was, and had been in more complete harmony with the proceedings of the afternoon. A writer has somewhere said, “Christians should be like fig-trees, which show fruit first and leaves afterwards."

In his Sword and Trowel for December, 1875, Spurgeon raises a warning voice against the sham and mock spirituality which will not hear of money or of any secular work in connexion with religion. ... Is it not urgently necessary that Christians should understand that “complete consecration’’ includes our purses? I have noticed with great grief that some of the most pious members of my congregation are the most covetous, so that I was once compelled to say to one of them, “If all converted persons were as covetous as you are, I could wish that my congregation would rather remain unconverted.” Yes, it seems that in our country the prevailing sin of God’s people is covetousness, and I feel that we ministers are not faithful enough in attacking and eradicating this evil. Christians ought to know that they can never become so pious as to find meetings held for the purpose of collecting money unedifying gatherings, from which it were better they stayed away. Is it not time for us all to undertake a crusade against this evil in our congregations?

Mr. Murray was not long in replying to the remarks contained in this letter. The following issue of the Kerkbode contained his answer, which was couched in these terms—

To V.D.M.—Money and Religion.

Dear Brother,—I have read with attention your letter in the Kerkbode of the 3rd August. As my silence would probably lead to wrong conclusions, I wish briefly to reply to you on the chief point at issue. And first I want to say frankly that your judgment on my congregation, and on other congregations of our country, is anything but generous or even truthful. You write thus concerning the Sustenta-tion Meeting, “Just what we all experience in our own parishes—the most religious members are the last to attend meetings like this, and when they do come they occupy the backmost pews.” I thank God that I may affirm that this is not true of the congregations of our Church known to me, nor is it true of Wellington. At each collection that is held here I can as a rule count on the most devout people to be the most generous givers.

You think it is a bad sign that only one hundred out of a thousand members attended the meeting. I do not. I stated that day that I considered the attendance satisfactory. One thousand members gives us only three hundred who are heads of households. Consider how many of these are without means, how many live at a distance from the village, and how many are engaged in avocations which prevented their attendance, and you will agree that an attendance of one hundred male members to discuss the monetary question is assuredly no sign of disinclination or covetousness.

As to the brother who suggested at the forenoon meeting to have the matter postponed, and spoke in the afternoon of full consecration, you are in error : they were two persons of the same name. Even if it were otherwise, I cannot see how one should not have the right of suggesting the postponement of a collection without being suspected of covetousness. The meeting, you say further, would not accept the proposal of the consistory to raise £1,500. But this surely is insufficient ground for a charge of covetousness. I myself told the consistory that I considered £1,500 too high an amount, and wished them to limit the proposal to £1,000. When a sum of money is to be raised there should be not merely Christian readiness to contribute, but positive enthusiasm for the cause for which the money is asked ; and nothing assists this enthusiasm more than the feeling that there is immediate need. But in the case of our sustentation fund the money will probably only be required five or ten years hence ; and therefore one need not be surprised that, at a time when money is not abundant, the congregation should only have contributed £600 as its first instalment—this being approximately the amount subscribed.

Let me come to something of greater importance. You have chosen the congregation of Wellington as an instance of the ruling sin of covetousness, because some among us profess to have wholly consecrated themselves to God. You demand that those who make such a profession should prove by their lives that their consecration is sincere. This demand is perfectly just. And it is a joy to me to be able to state that if you could look through our subscription lists you would find that the brethren who speak of complete consecration are always —each according to his means—our most willing and most generous givers.

Finally you write, "I have noticed with great grief that some of the most pious members of my congregation are the most covetous.” Brother, I find it difficult to conceive where your congregation is situated. “ Some of the most pious are the most covetous!” I call that no piety. A pious miser !—it is like speaking of a pious idolater.

I find it equally impossible to acquiesce in your estimate of covetousness as the ruling sin of our people. I have served in more than one congregation. I have collected money in about the half of the congregations of our Church. I have taken note of what is being done for church and school and missions, and I cannot subscribe to your verdict. My experience is that, when the cause advocated has been carefully laid before the people, and the true motive for generosity has been explained from God’s Word, our congregations are far from unwilling to contribute.

Does this imply that I am satisfied with the present measure of Christian liberality? This is quite a different question from the question whether I consider covetousness to be the besetting sin of God’s people and of this land. And to this question I answer, By no means. There is lacking in God’s children a real spiritual insight into the calling and the ability to live wholly for the Kingdom, and a resolve truly to assign to it and to its interests the first place in their lives.

In the Church of Christ there are only too many, even among true children of God, who hold their money with so close a grasp that it cannot be got from them without a wrench ; and who are often glad— though they would not admit it—of an excuse to refrain from giving,, or who give at the impulse of motives that are not acceptable with God.

And how is this condition of things to be remedied? I cannot approve of your proposal to preach a crusade against covetousness, not merely because I do not share your opinion about the prevalence of covetousness, but because such a crusade will effect nothing. No, brother, there is a more excellent way. The fire of the Holy Spirit can melt even gold; and the Church founded at Pentecost gave joyfully of its gold and its possessions to the cause of the Lord. Let what is called the higher spiritual life—I prefer calling it the life of faith—let this life of the Holy Spirit but become a powerful force in the Church, and through the illumination of the Scriptures more light will be shed on the consecration of all that we possess to God’s service. A man is ready enough to sacrifice his money for that which his heart lives for. Our congregations are willing to follow the lead of their ministers. Let the latter endeavour to bear witness to the glorious calling and the sufficiency of grace for a life of consecration, and the blessing will not be lacking. And while there is much that should be different, we desire to thank God for whatever good there is. We wish to thank Him that proportionately to the measure of spiritual life which we enjoy, there is true and great liberality. We wish to thank Him for the glorious indications He has granted us that He is about to lead His children in this country to a glad and powerful life of faith, such as the most of us have never yet experienced. And we wish gratefully to cherish the hope that in this life of faith there will be revealed such a power, that the upright will be enabled to perform all that the Father makes known by His Word and Spirit as His divine will.

The evangelistic campaigns of the American revivalists, Dwight L. Moody and Ira D. Sankey, form one of the most remarkable religious movements of the nineteenth century, or indeed of any century of the Christian era. Here were-two men crossing the Atlantic to Great Britain, unknown, unlearned in theology, unarmed with credentials, and yet resolved, in the power of God’s grace, to proclaim a free Gospel and summon men everywhere to an immediate surrender to Jesus Christ. And these two simple laymen did truly “ turn the world upside down," drawing immense crowds, securing thousands of converts, strengthening the faith of believers, building up the Churches, and, most remarkable of all, conciliating all prejudices against their persons and their methods of work, and winning the support, the esteem and the friendship of men as widely diverse in character as Dr. R. W. Dale and Professor Henry Drummond, Lord Cairns and Charles Spurgeon, Principal Fairbairn and the Earl of Shaftesbury.

Nor was the marvellous influence of Moody’s preaching confined to the lands which he visited. The searching and hopeful work which he performed set in motion a spiritual force which broke in waves of blessing on distant shores. The story of what God had wrought in the cities of Great Britain and America spread to other lands, kindling new expectations, stimulating to new consecration, and leading God’s people everywhere to new intercession on behalf of [ their own Church and their own country. It is noteworthy how many articles in the Kerkbode are devoted, during 1874 and subsequent years, to personal details concerning the American evangelists and to descriptions of their meetings and methods and of the extraordinary results that flowed '.from them. Ministers lately returned from a visit to Europe gave accounts of what they had witnessed and shared in, and their recital imparted a new warmth and glow to Christian hearts, and led in many instances to a new and blessed ingathering into the Saviour’s fold. In this manner revivals broke out in Swellendam, Montagu, Wellington, Cape Town and Stellenbosch, a chief characteristic of which was the large number of young people who decided for Christ. The Synod of 1876 devoted much time and earnest attention to the question of special services, and appointed a “ Committee for Special Gospel-preaching,” with instructions to arrange a series of evangelistic services in various congregations throughout the country. This Committee requested Mr. Murray and Dr. S. Hofmeyr, minister of Montagu, to undertake special campaigns, and prevailed upon their respective consistories to set them free for some months in order to engage in this important work.

To Mr. Murray himself the need for such special efforts had long since been clear and urgent. During his seven weeks’ tour in 1876 he was deeply impressed with the possibilities for evangelistic work, and from Carnarvon he penned the following lines—

To his Wife.

The more I travel, the more I see that the great need of our Church is evangelists. And though I cannot in the least see how it would be possible to give up Wellington, or to arrange for long absences, it does almost appear wrong not to undertake the work when one knows that there are hundreds waiting to be brought in. It appears terrible to let them go on in darkness and indecision when they are willing to be helped. I have been much struck in reading the Notes of Exodus by the words of God to Pharaoh, "Let my people go that they may serve Me.” He does hear the cry and the sighing of thousands of seeking ones, and wants His servants to lead them out of bondage. And how can I help saying that if He would use me I should consider the honour only too high. It is so sad to preach one or two earnest evangelistic sermons, to see impressions made, and to have to depart feeling sure that if one could devote a little more time and undivided attention to the work, souls would come to light and joy.

A few days later he writes from Meirings Poort—

To his Wife.

In the solitude of last night and this morning I thought a great deal of “the backside of the desert ” (Exod. iii. 1). The Let my people go is continually before me. In travelling the last three or four days I have met ever so many people who appear willing to accept Christ, but have not the needful knowledge or help. I have felt so deeply that if one had a divine enthusiasm, the warmth of faith and love, to compel them to come in, one might be a blessing from home to home. I have this day sought to lay myself afresh upon the altar, and to look to the great High Priest presenting me to the Father—an acceptable and accepted sacrifice. How, I know not fully. The want, the universal want, of a dealing with souls in the fervency and joy of a living faith rests heavy on me. But whether there is any prospect of my doing the work I cannot say. Or whether, by training workers, teachers and missionaries, the Lord will permit me to do more, I know not. But it is sad to see souls by multitudes seeking and not finding, sighing and not helped, apparently because there is none to show them the way of the Lord. Oh ! why should not our hearts be verily filled to overflowing with that love which wrestles for souls unto the death.

Before embarking on his first evangelistic tour in 1879, Mr. Murray set forth, in a paper published in the Kerkbode, the reasons for such special preaching and the conditions upon which successful results depend. It ran as follows—


Special services are to be held at the present time in several congregations. In order to remove all misunderstanding, secure the interest and co-operation of all true Christians, and encourage everybody to due expectation and preparation, attention is called to the following points :

No new Gospel is preached at these special services. We proclaim the old but ever new tidings of great joy. The reasons why this preaching goes by the name of “special services” are these—

(1) A special time is set aside to preach solely the message of conversion and faith, and to insist on the immediate acceptance of the Lord Jesus as Saviour. We are all acquainted with the proverb, “What can be done at any time is often never done at all.” A difficult or unpleasant task is easily postponed. It is a great assistance to have a time fixed for the performance ; and when the hour arrives the thought immediately suggests itself to do it now. It is time at every moment to repent and believe. But there are times when the minister seeks to insist with special earnestness upon to-day and now. The purpose of special services is nothing else than to shout this now in the sinner's ears. In the usual services the minister must necessarily change his subject from time to time. But when there is a special time to preach one message with emphasis and power; when the believers of the congregation combine to render assistance by prayer and co-operation ; when other ministers visit the congregation with the definite object of speaking on this one subject; and when a series of services are devoted to this one aim,—then God’s grace often makes use of all this as a means to awaken in the heart of the unconverted man or woman the feeling, “It is time for me to repent, and to repent now."

(2) Continuity is a characteristic of special services. In the regular preaching of the Word the subject to which attention is directed alters continually, and after Sunday comes the week with all its distractions. By next Sunday the impressions made have vanished. But when a series of services is held, the anxious soul is helped from step to step— his doubts removed, his objections refuted, and the worthlessness of his excuses exposed. The continuous repetition of the summons to repentance and faith thus leads the sinner to the point at which he feels that there is no escape from an immediate decision.

(3) The influence of fellowship with others is also of great importance at such a time. This fact is grounded in our human nature: whatever I do in company with others, I do more easily than alone. When I learn that others are concerned about their spiritual state, I begin to examine myself. And when those who are seeking salvation know that the children of God are specially praying for them, it inspires them with courage to confess that they are seeking Christ and would confide themselves to Him. Ministers and believers are not always exclusively concerned for the unconverted, for there is other work that they must perform. But at a time like this they lay aside their other duties and confine themselves to this one thing. All these considerations comhine to make the indifferent thoughtful and the anxious doubly earnest.

(4) Personal intercourse at a time like this is an important factor. There is not merely a simpler and clearer preaching than usual, but there are meetings after the service for personal talk. Ministers and older Christians are ready there to meet all enquirers individually, to listen to their difficulties and to encourage them to a decision. More than this : Christians at such times have more courage to visit private houses, to talk to individuals, and to bear witness to what Christ has done for themselves. All the powers of the congregation are thus united to persuade men by every means to believe and be saved.

Thus far we have considered special services from the human side. Let us now ask what the conditions are for them to be a source of lasting blessing.

1. Much depends upon the preparation. All congregations are not prepared in equal measure. There are congregations in which long-continued and earnest preaching has awakened in men’s hearts the sense that they are lost, and the desire and longing to he saved ; and where children and young people have received a religious instruction in the truths of the Gospel, and know that they must seek salvation. Such congregations form a prepared soil. Preparation is necessary above all on the part of God’s children. If both the minister and believers generally are really concerned about the condition of the unconverted and sigh to God for them; if they intercede daily with God to effect a change; if they meditate and speak about the matter, and devise methods by which souls can he led to the Lord Jesus,—then this is an omen and prophecy of blessing.

2. Much depends upon the fellowship and co-operation of believers. At such times of special effort believers must be brought to recognize how greatly they are themselves to hlame for the unconverted state in which so many live. If their own confession of Christ were clearer, more joyful and more fervent, if their conduct were holier, humbler and more loving, if their consecration to Jesus and to the work of soul-seeking were more undivided and sincere, then assuredly many more would have come to conversion. The work of seeking to lead men to conversion is too often assigned to ministers alone, but at a time of special services all Christians can be encouraged to take their share. There is something contagious in earnestness and zeal. When the unconverted observe that the people of God are deeply moved concerning their condition, and full of hope and confidence that they can be saved, it exercises a mighty influence to lead them to faith and to rest.

3. Everything depends upon the Spirit of God, and the measure of faith in which His power is entreated and expected. To all believers in a congregation where special services are to be held the call should be addressed, “ Men and brethren, pray in faith. The work is great. Lift up your hearts to behold in faith God’s almighty power. Present yourselves to Jesus Christ for His work, that He may gird you about with His Holy Spirit. Cry to Him to fulfil His promise, ‘ I will send you another Comforter, and when He is come He will convince the world, of sin.’ Think of all His wonders of old. Call aloud and say, ‘ Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord ; awake as in the ancient days, in the generations of old.’ Speak to one another of His glorious acts to His people of Israel and to His Church since the day of Pentecost. Encourage each other to expect great things. Continue steadfastly in secret and in united prayer. Call and keep not silence—in deep humility, with sincere confession of sin, with confidence and with complete assurance—and see if He will not open to you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing so that there shall not be room enough to receive it. O brothers ! God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we can ask or think. Open your hearts to a steadfast and large faith in His power. ‘ I am the Lord thy God which brought thee out of the land of Egypt; open thy mouth wide and I will fill it.’”

Mr. Murray’s tour, on which he was accompanied by two laymen, members of his Wellington consistory, lasted for two months and comprised the congregations of Murrays-burg, Hanover, Philipstown, Colesberg, Philippolis, Edenburg, Steynsburg, Middelburg, Adelaide and Graaff-Reinet. A few letters from this period still survive and may be partially reproduced here—

To his Wife.

Middelburg, 29 August, 1879.—Wearrived here an hour ago, and were glad to get our letters. As the post leaves almost immediately there is not much time for writing. At Edenburg our work was more difficult than it had been. I think worldly prospects, and the idea strongly adhered to, that assurance is not possible or else not needed, were the chief hindrances. But the Lord gave a blessing, and many who are not yet in the light got thoroughly aroused. Olivier was there too, and goes in heartily for the work : I think that he will prove a successful worker in this line. It was interesting to see some old friends. The two elders, Schalk van der Merwe and Caspar van Zijl, were both boys when I went to the Free State in 1849. We regularly take the first two days for the unconverted or anxious and the third day for believers. I think this will prepare the way for great good in the future. I pray God most earnestly that the visit to Edenburg may be the opening of a door of eventual access to the Free State.

Tuesday to Bethulie, where I had a large congregation in the evening. Wednesday another nine hours’ drive to Steynsburg, where there was a large concourse of people waiting. Rossouw’s work has been much blessed. Had four good services and several most interesting cases. I have pressed Rossouw very much to come to Graaff-Reinet, as help will be needed with the afterwork. Came on here—another eight hours’ drive. Expect Mr. du Plessis this evening, and I do not doubt there will be blessing, as the congregation has been prepared by last year’s special services.

It is certainly an unspeakable privilege to be occupied day by day with such work, and especially to be speaking to believers on their privileges—God’s fatherly love and the promised abiding presence of Jesus. Yesterday at Steynsburg I told of how little Fanny used to come to the study door, and how I rose to open to her, and rejoiced to see her. So, too, the Father longs to have us dwelling in His love.

To his Children.

Glen Lynden, nth September, 1879.—As I do not know to which of you specially to write, I write to all. I have been much interested in this place. You have read of Thomas Pringle, the poet, and of his three brothers, Scotch emigrants, who came out to the Colony more than fifty years ago. They settled about six miles higher up the river than where the church from which I am writing stands. The place is a most extraordinary one. You ride for more than an hour in among the mountains, along the gorge through which flows the Baviaans River—most appropriate name, for the place looks only fit for baboons, —and then come on an opening hardly wide enough for a little garden and a few houses. Here Mr. Welsh lived and preached for many years in a most extraordinary little church, built of stones, very small and with an exceedingly low roof. Outside against the stones of the wall Uncle William Stegmann showed me the marks of bullets fired in 1850, when the Kaffirs and rebel Hottentots attacked the people who had gathered in the building for protection. Since Uncle came here, Adelaide has become the village and centre of the congregation. When I asked one of the Pringles, sons of the old people, what had brought their fathers to such a spot, when there was still so much open country and ^better land available, his reply was that the Government of the day was afraid of them, and wanted to put them where they would be kept quiet. At that time the gorge was the haunt of lions and Bushmen. The sons are still very quiet, Scotch-looking men.

There was a good attendance here, though not very large, as a good many from the neighbourhood proposed going to the services at Adelaide. When Dr. Hofmeyr was at Adelaide three years ago, the revival was carried over to Glen Lynden by some young people, and broke out with great power. At our first meeting on Tuesday evening the number of persons who remained behind as God’s children was larger proportionately than at any place we have visited. On the Wednesday I had four services—one for the English-speaking people. Uncle William was bright and happy, moving about among his people. He is indefatigable as doctor, too, in this neighbourhood.

Adelaide, 13th September.—Came on here on Thursday by way of Bedford, one of the prettiest spots I know. Spent half an hour with Mr. Solomon, an old friend of Philippolis times. The drive to Adelaide quite excited the enthusiasm of my two travelling companions, who had never seen or expected such a sight—the whole country studded with trees, giving it a park-like aspect. Here we are a larger party than we expected to be—Uncle John and Aunt Bella [Hofmeyr], Mr. du Plessis, Mr. A. Faure, Mr. Roos, and their wives, and Mr. de Villiers from Tarkastad. We propose staying over on Monday and having a ministerial conference. The attendance is good, but one feels that the congregation here is not so religious as in most places we have been. The effect of former years of neglect, and the intercourse with superficial English civilization, have made themselves felt. But we are waiting on God for His blessing and His power.

The spiritual results of this series of services were great and permanent, as may be felt in the tone and language of the reports submitted to the presbyteries towards the end of the year. The Consistory of Hanover, for example,' stated that there was a specially blessed work among the children and young people, not merely in the village but in the wards of the congregation, and that the young men and young women of the town had commenced a weekly prayer-meeting at which the greatest earnestness was manifested. The Colesberg report said among other things: “ When it was known that the minister of Wellington would visit us in order to hold a series of special meetings, the cry of God’s people for a blessing became more fervent than before. And indeed we have cause to shout, ‘ The Lord hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad.’ Believers have been quickened and strengthened. The indifferent have been aroused and, as we trust, brought to Christ. Youth and age rejoice together in a new-found salvation.”

From the testimony of the Consistory of Graaff-Reinet we extract the following—

Towards the end of September special services were held here by the ministers of Wellington, Murraysburg (Louw) and Steynsburg (Rossouw). The congregation was prepared for their coming and had prayed much for a rich blessing. The services lasted four days. The attendance was large beyond expectations, the interest sustained, the blessing distinct and glorious. The people of God have received a heavenly refreshment, and many an one can say, "I have been anointed with fresh oil.” The language of complaint and doubt has made way for the grateful speech of assurance and faith. Even more noticeable is the blessing in the case of the many who have surrendered themselves to the Lord, and have had the glorious experience that He in no wise casts out those that come unto Him. Many have solemnly promised to confess Him with mouth and heart, and to thank Him unceasingly for the salvation He has wrought. Our God has proved again that He is the Hearer of prayer. The good work is still proceeding quietly in our midst. We expect more blessing. The river of God is full of water.

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