Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

The Life of Andrew Murray of South Africa
Chapter XVIII. Andrew Murray as an Educationalist

Religious education must, I think, become the watchword of our Church before we can expect abiding fruit on our labours. God forbid that I should limit the Holy One of Israel, but still I think that in the ordinary course of things education is our only hope.—Andrew Murray (in 1859).

WHEN on one occasion Mr. Murray was asked what first awakened his interest in education, his reply was in effect the following: “I think I can tell how it came about. It was certainly not due to my ministerial training or to anything I had learnt before I commenced my active ministry. When I received my appointment to Bloemfontein in 1849, I was at the same time put in charge of the four other congregations which had then been established in the Free State. The care of these distant parishes implied incessant travelling. I was not able to visit some neighbourhoods more than twice or thrice in the course of a year. At the immense gatherings on such occasions I frequently had as many as fifty or sixty children to baptize. My father had taught me the necessity of saying a few words to the parents of every child presented for baptism, explaining to them the meaning of the sacred ordinance, its privileges and its obligations. I soon saw how feeble a conception parents in general had of the true meaning of the rite, and how great the blessing would be if they realized more fully what God meant Christian nurture to be. This led me, on all the occasions when I was called to baptize children, to preach baptism sermons, in which I tried to direct and encourage parents to be faithful to their baptismal vows. This was the course which I also pursued on my journeys in the Transvaal, to which during two successive years I paid two visits of six weeks’ duration, baptizing on each tour more than six hundred children.”

On his settlement in the pastorate of Worcester, Mr. Murray introduced the baptismal Sunday—an observance which is widely followed in South Africa. Once a month either the forenoon or the afternoon diet of worship is set aside for the baptism of children, and the pastor has the opportunity of speaking specially on the rights, the privileges and the duties of Christian parentage. From these addresses at Worcester grew the booklet which Mr. Murray published under the title of Wat zal toch dit kindeke wezen? Many years later it saw the light in an English dress under the title, The Children for Christ. To these publications reference has already been made at the close of the chapter on the Worcester Pastorate.

We learnt in Chapter VIII how Mr. Murray came to be connected with the establishnent of the Grey College at Bloemfontein. But a line is necessary to show how he and Mrs. Murray were led to undertake the onerous duty of providing a home for the first boarders who came to attend the College. On one occasion Mr. Murray heard his old friend Mrs. Allison, wife of one of the Wesleyan missionaries, tell of her experiences in providing a boarding-school for native girls. All the girls whom she and her husband had received into their home for Christian training had in course of time come to conversion. This simple narration suggested quite new possibilities to Mr. Murray. Hitherto he had looked upon boarding-schools in the nature of necessary evils. They might be needful, he thought, in some cases, but for the vast majority of children it were far better if they could receive their education without leaving their parents’ home. He now realized that a boarding-school, under Christian influence, might become a nursery of Christian character. It was this consideration that led him to offer the services of himself and Mrs. Murray to the Committee of the Grey College, and that led to his appointment as first rector of that Institution. They had their reward in the knowledge that, in spite of their brief tenure of the position, several of the lads entrusted to their care took a decided stand for Christ.

In the Grey University College Magazine for 1917, Dr. Brill, for many years the highly-respected rector of the College, has given us an appreciative account of Andrew Murray’s connexion with the Free State and the Grey College. He concludes his account with the following words—

It is not the intention of the writer of these lines to follow Mr. Murray in his lengthy labours as pastor and minister in the Church of the Cape Colony. Most people will find the centre of gravity of his beneficent life-work in his achievements there. But for Free-staters, and above all for those who are connected in any way with Grey College, as directors, teachers, past or present students, the eleven years, from the commencement of 1849 to the end of 1859, will always be his most interesting period. For during those years, and as a consequence in no small degree of his faith and his consecration, the foundations were laid of the Dutch Reformed Church in this country, and those of the Grey College likewise. That is why Andrew Murray’s name, together with that of Sir George Grey, will be held in honour by our College as long as it exists. To have had two such men at the head of the history of our school will, we hope, always be looked upon, not only as a great privilege, but as an inspiration for the future.

It is not necessary to do more than refer the reader to what has been said already in former chapters as to Mr. Murray’s connexion with two important educational institutions in Cape Town: the Good Hope Seminary for young ladies, and the Normal College for the training of teachers. The former school was established in pursuance of a resolution taken in 1872 by the Presbytery of Cape Town, and Mr. Murray, who was a warm advocate of the scheme, was appointed as one of the original board of managers. This position, however, he soon resigned, as he found it difficult, owing to his removal to Wellington, to put in regular attendances at the meetings of the Board. His long and honourable connexion with the Normal College, the first rector of which (Mr. J. D. Whitton).

The story of the origin of the Huguenot Seminary has also been previously related, but a few interesting facts may be added. Shortly’ after Mr. Murray’s settlement at Wellington the mistress of the only girls’ school in the place signified her intention of relinquishing her work, and offered to hand over her school to Mr. Murray. The effort to find a suitable successor led to greater issues than anyone at the time anticipated. Mr. Murray had become acquainted with the biography of Mary Lyon of the Mt. Holyoke Seminary through the instrumentality of Miss Catherine Elliot, a friend of Mrs. Murray’s. The impression left upon his mind by the perusal of that work is best conveyed in words employed by him on the occasion of his seventieth birthday—

In answer to a question put to me, I have thought over and put down the names of some twelve men who, either personally or by their books, have most influenced me, and to the list I feel compelled to add the name of one woman—Mary Lyon. Let me here tell, for the sake of the many who are not acquainted with the life of that noble woman, what it is that she taught me. For I have frequently been asked how it was that I, with my close connexion with Scotland, was led to go not there, but to the United States, for teachers. My answer to that question gives me the opportunity of explaining what the Mt. Holyoke system, as developed by Mary Lyon, really is.

The first thing that struck me was the wonderful way in which she gave the head, the heart and the hand an equal place in her training. At a time when there was in the United States not a single college or school for women, she insisted that it was necessary that such provision should be made, and that, in order to enable them to fulfil their life-tasks aright, women should receive the best possible intellectual training. More than this,—she believed that the cultivation of a truly moral and religious character was a matter of the first importance. While she aimed at the highest mental culture for her pupils, and succeeded in implanting it, she could not rest content until they had learnt to seek first the Kingdom of God, and to devote themselves loyally to Christ and to His service. To attain this purpose she laboured as definitely as to secure the literary success of her institution. With these lofty aims for the head and for the heart she combined in remarkable fashion the culture of the hand. She had known what narrow circumstances at home were, and had been obliged to earn money in order to defray her own education. She therefore held domestic work in high honour, not merely as a duty to be voluntarily accepted, but as a means of developing the whole woman, as a relaxation from mental fatigue, and as an exercise in the virtues of self-reliance and true independence.

With these general principles were combined other elements that appeared to me to go far in providing an ideal education. One of these was her inflexible sense of duty. On her tombstone I read the words uttered by her at a time when dangerous illness prevailed in her little community: "I fear only one thing in the world, that I should fail of knowing my duty; or knowing, should fail of doing it.” She succeeded in the most marvellous way in breathing this spirit into her pupils. Not to ask what is pleasant, but to be ready gladly and instantly to do what is right, was the disposition which she fostered. Another of her favourite lessons was, “ Order is heaven’s first law,” and she sought to explain to her girls how that which forms the beauty of the world alone can give beauty and stability to the likeness in which we form ourselves. Asked on one occasion whether she trained missionaries or teachers, she replied, “I train women.” She believed that the spirit of self-sacrifice which she strove to inculcate was as much needed in the home as on the mission-field, and that where that spirit prevailed there would be no lack of labourers for the regions beyond. The result has been that while Mary Lyon did not set out with the purpose of training missionaries, no institution has produced as many as the Mt. Holyoke Seminary.

Mr. Murray’s application to the principal of the Mt. Holyoke Seminary to supply him with a teacher for the school at Wellington, the arrival of Misses Ferguson and Bliss, and the commencement of the Huguenot Seminary, have been described elsewhere in this volume. Nor is there any need to enlarge again upon the rapid growth of the new undertaking. Similar institutions began to arise in various parts of South Africa. In 1874 the Rev. J. H. Neethling wrote on behalf of the Committee of the Girls’ School at Stellenbosch, requesting Mr. Murray to procure them a teacher from America. Another graduate of Mt. Holyoke, Miss H. Juliette Gilson, responded to this call, and was for several years the efficient and greatly respected principal of the Bloemhof Seminary. In 1875 the Ladies’ Seminary at Worcester forwarded a similar request to the United States, and before the end of the year the Committee were able to welcome the Misses Smith, two devoted sisters, who identified themselves most intimately with a work of great promise at Worcester. In 1876 the Midland Seminary was opened at Graaff-Reinet, with Miss Helen Murray, Mr. Murray’s younger sister (a former Huguenot Seminary pupil), as lady principal. Miss Murray was spared to labour for some forty years at the training of the young mothers of the vast parish of Graaff-Reinet, and the beneficent influence which has proceeded from the Midland Seminary has been incalculable. Such were some of the institutions which arose as the result, in part at any rate, of the impulse which Mr. Murray derived from the study of Mary Lyon’s life.

At the dedication of the Seminary building at Worcester, early in 1876, a gathering of teachers was held over which Mr. Murray presided. In his remarks as chairman he dwelt upon the pressing educational requirements of the country and of the necessity of comprising those requirements in one complete purview. He had been recently touring the country districts in the interests of the Huguenot Seminary, and had gained one or two outstanding impressions. One was, the crying need of the country for more schools and for suitable teachers. In the country areas it was almost impossible to secure qualified teachers. On a rough computation he estimated that the Cape Colony alone needed at once some four hundred teachers. As for the existing training institutions, it would be many years before they would be able to cope with the demand. Another impression was, that though there were some good schools, especially boys’ schools, very few teachers realized the importance of making Christian character their first and chiefest aim. Many teachers freely confessed that hitherto they had always given the first place to their intellectual work, and had regarded the formation of character as a subordinate concern, belonging to the domain of the parents, the minister and the Sunday-school teacher.

Mr. Murray succeeded at this conference in imparting to his hearers a larger outlook. They began to understand that they were not individual teachers merely, connected with isolated institutions, but that they had set their hands to a task which embraced the whole country and populace.

The teachers present undertook to write home to such friends as they knew were interested in South Africa, emphasizing the needs of the sub-continent and asking for suitable reinforcements to the ranks of teachers.

In the following year (1877) it so fell out that Mr. Murray was appointed delegate to the meeting of the Pan-Presbyterian Council, and undertook at the same time the quest for teachers in America, which has been described in Chapter XIII. He returned from America, as we have seen, bringing with him not merely a principal for the Training School for Missionaries, but no less than fourteen new lady workers, who were speedily assigned to schools in various parts of the country. The Huguenot Seminary meanwhile continued to grow. In 1889 Mr. and Mrs. J. S. de Villiers, founders of a young ladies’ academy at Paarl which had enjoyed great and deserved popularity, suggested that the Trustees of the Huguenot Seminary should take over their school and run it as a branch institution. At Mr. Murray’s instance the Seminary Board declared its willingness to accept this additional trust, and teachers were detached from the Seminary staff in order to assume the fresh responsibilities which had thus unexpectedly arisen. Not long afterwards another branch seminary was opened at Bethlehem in the Orange Free State, and presently the little colony of Natal, not to be behindhand, requested the same privilege, with the result that a third daughter seminary was planted in the village of Greytown.

At Wellington a building containing a large hall for meetings and a number of apartments for class work was formally opened in 1886, in the presence of a representative audience. It received the name of Goodnow Hall, after the munificent friend in America who had borne the chief share of its cost. From time to time more buildings were added, while in 1898, on the occasion of the silver jubilee of the Seminary, was opened Cummings Hall, the first building of what in this year blossomed out into the Huguenot College. The celebrations in connexion with this important event in the history of the institution merit a somewhat fuller description. On Saturday the 17th December, at half-past ten in the forenoon, a procession of some six hundred present and past pupils wended its way to the Dutch Reformed Church, where a large assemblage of guests and friends had foregathered to do honour to the occasion. After the congregation had sung the well-known hymn, 0 God of Bethel, and prayer had been offered, Mr. Murray read the 145th Psalm, remarking that the keynote of the festival was Praise to God. He then proceeded to deliver an address, of which the following is the brief summary—

They had already uttered their thanks to Almighty God for the gracious guidance and providence of the past. He now wished to offer congratulations, first of all to Miss Ferguson and Miss Bliss, who witnessed to-day the consummation of a quarter of a century of labour. Words could not convey the feelings which possessed him as he thought of what God had wrought through them for the Institution with which they were so inseparably connected. Next, he wished to congratulate the young ladies, past and present pupils of the Seminary, on the privilege they had of celehrating this festival with them, when they would learn how things stood to-day, what had been done in the past, and what they hoped to accomplish in the future. He trusted that their share of the feast would be that they would be inspired with greater zeal for the cause of education. Finally, he desired to congratulate himself and his fellow-trustees. God had imposed a trust upon them, but He had also enabled them to fulfil that trust. In reviewing the past he was confident that the experiences which they had passed through and the blessings which they had enjoyed would kindle in them fresh energy, and would fit them for assuming greater responsibilities in the future.

He wished to speak of the wonderful union of the human and the Divine in education. Whatever good they had done or might yet do, it was to God that the honour was due. And yet God had need of human minds as His instruments. There was indeed no miracle about this union of the human and the Divine. He could hardly find words enough to express the divine nobility of the teacher’s work. His true office was to ennoble the purposes of life, to enlighten young men and young women as to the power and value of self-control, and to teach them to live a life worthy of themselves and of God. The office of a teacher was in some respects higher and more important than that of a minister, for to his care was confided, at a very early age, the young mind almost fresh from its Creator, to be influenced and fashioned. They should rid themselves entirely of the idea that education lay in cramming and in the multiplicity of examinations. All knowledge and its application should be subservient to the formation of character, the training of the will, and the drawing out of all the nobler qualities of their being. The mere acquisition of knowledge availed little if it left the man himself, the inward man, undeveloped. The real succeed of their country depended not upon its mineral or its agricultural wealth, but upon its men and its women, and if they wished their country to be great they should see to it that their men and women were a superior race. Let them believe that it lay in the power of education to make them truthful and upright, and to draw out and develop what was best and noblest in them.

They needed, therefore, the very best minds for the teaching profession. Second-rate men and women could be spared for other professions, but the teaching profession had a right to the very best. Teachers were fellow-labourers with God. Let them therefore bless God for the part which man could take in the matter of education, and let them strive to realize that no educational efforts achieved their purpose unless the youth were trained for God and for eternity. The strength of the Seminary lay in its boarding establishments. There was a time when, with many others, he thought that boarding-schools were a necessary evil, but he had changed his mind. Herbert Spencer said somewhere that future generations would stand astonished at the fact that in our enlightened age men and women had never been instructed in the art of training their children aright. Boarding-schools, Christian boarding-schools, had the opportunity of remedying that defect. Even Government acknowledged that a home could not exist without religion, and hence they were encouraged to make the training in their boarding establishments as religious as possible.

In concluding an eloquent and most impressive address, he bade his audience have unbounded confidence in God, who would enable them to do even greater things in the future than in the past. He often meditated on the future of South Africa, with its infinite possibilities, its untold mineral wealth, and the unceasing influx of a new population, and asked himself. What can T do for my country ? The best they could do was to get hold of the youth of the land and implant in their hearts the fear of God. An even better thing they could do was to train the youth to train others in the fear of God.

The establishment and growth of the Training Institute for missionaries have been described in earlier pages. This institution, to a greater degree perhaps than even the Huguenot Seminary, was Mr. Murray’s own creation and care. The Wellington congregation supported him in the most generous manner, especially in contributing the capital amounts required for the purchase of ground and the erection of buildings, but for many years the deficits on the working expenses were largely met from his own slender purse. In 1903 the Institute passed into the hands of the D.R. Synod, when the following resolution was unanimously adopted by that body in session—

The Synod expresses its cordial appreciation of the work performed for the Church, during upwards of a quarter of a century, by the revered first minister of Wellington and his collaborators, in the training of missionaries. It accepts the gift [of the Training Institute], which has cost more than £5,000, and is offered to the Synod unencumbered by debt, with sincere thanks to the Lord and the donors. It will continue to regard the Institute as a training-school for future missionaries of our Church, and proposes to issue a call in the Pastoral Letter to the various congregations to assume this new responsibility with alacrity, and to contribute liberally towards its support and extension. . . . should the Institute at any later period no longer be needed as a training seminary for missionaries, the sum of ^5,000 will be refunded to the congregation of Wellington.

Under the regime the Institute continued to prosper. The need for more accommodation was met in 1905 by the erection of the Murray Jubilee Hall, which was dedicated on Mr. Murray’s birthday, the 9th May, and supplied the urgent need of a hall for general meetings and efficient class-rooms for daily instruction. After Mr. Ferguson’s death in 1896 the work was carried on by the Revs. J. C. Pauw, C. T. Wood and G. F. Marais, and it is now being continued in the same spirit by the Revs. J. Rabie and H. T. Gonin. Since its inception no less than two hundred students have passed through the course, the vast majority being now in the employ of the D. R. Church, in its home and foreign mission fields.

Mr. Murray’s interest in popular education for the rural districts was born of his intimate knowledge of their necessities. His many travels up and down the country had given him a unique acquaintance with the conditions under which a large proportion of country children grew to manhood and womanhood. There were extensive areas in the Colony which lay remote from villages and village schools—areas which were sparsely populated by a class of impoverished farmers, who were often without education themselves, and without the ability or the desire to secure education for their children. The then Superintendent-General of Education, Dr. Langham Dale, to whom the cause of education at the Cape owes a heavy debt of gratitude, expressed great concern at this state of affairs, and proposed to apply to Parliament for a sum of money to enable him to introduce a system of Circuit Schools. Mr. Murray rendered him invaluable aid in bringing the proposed schools to the notice of the ministers of the D. R. Church. Writing to the Kerkbode on 6th June, 1888, he says—

Dr. Dale asserts that he is strongly convinced that, unless provision is made for the mental development of the children of our people, they will be thrust completely into the background by those who are now flocking from other countries to our gold-fields. One of the recent steamers brought to our shores more than fifty young men. Dr. Dale wishes therefore to make an attempt at supplying the educational needs of the rural population, and considers it advisable that he should be at liberty to ascertain by experiment how this purpose can be best achieved. His scheme is this. He proposes to make a grant of from £60 to £100 per annum for a circuit teacher for a given ward. This teacher may work at a single farm, or at two or three farms, in the course of a year. The parents have only to provide an adequate schoolroom and the teacher’s lodging, but need contribute nothing towards supplementing his salary. The minimum number of children is to be twenty.

What Dr. Dale now asks is that ministers who believe that there is an opening for such schools in their congregations will advise him of the fact as speedily as possible. He will be glad, too, to receive any suggestions as to the modification of his scheme, in the direction, it may be, of a reduced grant in the case of a smaller number of pupils. I am convinced that there are districts where large numbers of poor children can by these means be assisted to the education which they so much need, and I have no doubt that there will be many applications for circuit schools, and even many applications for placing under the new system existing schools that cannot pay their way.

The system of Circuit Schools outlined above was shortly afterwards introduced into remote and sparsely-populated areas. It differed from the existing system in that these circuit schools received a very much larger measure of Government support. This support was rendered, not on the £ for £ principle, which prevailed in other public schools, but on the understanding that the State should contribute the whole of the teacher's salary, the local authorities being responsible only for his board and lodgings. The name of circuit school was soon changed to that of poor school, for the idea of shifting the school from farm to farm was found to be to a great extent impracticable, and schools once established obtained a certain fixity of tenure. These poor schools had considerable vogue in the north-western districts of the Cape Colony, and were only done away with by the provisions of the School Board Acts of a later date, which transformed the whole Cape educational system, and changed all existing poor schools and extra-aided schools into ordinary public schools.

Intimately connected with the problem of education for the rural districts is the problem of the “ poor whites. The latter question first came into prominence during the last decade of the nineteenth century. A leading politician1 had drawn attention to the ominous increase of a class of indigent white people who had been trained to no trade» appeared to possess no regular means of subsistence, and threatened to become a burden and a danger to the community. The existence of “poor whites” of this class was admitted, and the Synod of 1894 discussed with great earnestness the means and methods of improving their condition and providing them with suitable employment. As Moderator of Synod, Mr. Murray naturally took no part in the discussion, but at a Fraternal Conference held during the synodical sessions he evinced his deep interest in the matter under debate by an incisive speech on the necessity of going after the non-church-going classes and bringing them into touch with the Church.

He was convinced (he said) that hundreds of Church members never visit the church. On this matter he had dwelt repeatedly when travelling through the country. At each sacramental season the same Church members appear at the Lord’s Table, but they form a mere section of the congregation. Very little more than half of the actual membership is found attending the Church services, many of these not more than twice or thrice annually. Can a healthy Christian life arise under such conditions? And is not this precisely one of the causes which promote the gradual degeneration of the whites? On the banks of the Orange River are to be found many of our people who are not “poor whites” yet, but who are sinking rapidly to that condition, and this decline is going on silently but steadily. Unless we take cognizance of this fact, we shall never rouse ourselves to do our work thoroughly. Our reports on the state of religion in our various congregations are far too rosy.

Our people are passing through a transitional stage. There is an immense influx of foreign elements, with results that are frequently disastrous. But in spite of this our reports are always optimistic. We know that the Lord had reason to complain of the religious condition of the Churches of Asia Minor. What would He say of our Church? Wellington is supposed to be a church-going congregation, and yet in certain corners of the parish men and women have been discovered who never attend divine worship : and if this is the case in Wellington, how much more serious must the state of affairs be in country congregations of wide extent. Let us encourage each other to adopt new methods and set in motion new forces. The unutilized powers of the congregation must be harnessed. Elders and deacons need not remain seated in church only, they must get to work. The question had been put to him whether we could not get our young people interested in the kind of work which the Salvation Army does. Our Church has not yet engaged in that kind of spiritual work, but it ought to. Let every minister and every consistory endeavour to rouse to action the gifts and powers that lie slumbering in the members of the congregation, for unless this is done the Church can never overtake its responsibilities.

During the quarter of a century that has elapsed since 1894 much has been attempted on behalf of the indigent white element. Industrial schools have been established at various centres throughout the country, labour colonies have arisen in the different provinces of the Union, and the system of popular education has been so extended as to provide for the instruction of the poorest children in special institutions. While the Church has generally indicated the methods to be employed, and has taken the lead in active effort, it has been loyally seconded by the Government. Indeed, without the liberal grants-in-aid voted by Parliament or supplied by the Education Department, the efforts of the Church or of individual philanthropists would have met with but little success. But in spite of every earnest attempt to solve the problem, the “poor white” question remains one of the burning economic questions of South Africa. In large mining centres like Johannesburg and Kimberley the class of indigent whites shows no sign of diminution, while the moral degeneracy to which it is liable is apparent from the increasing number of convictions secured against members of this class of Europeans for the illicit sale of liquor to natives.

Mr. Murray displayed the greatest possible interest in the movement which arose during the latter years of the last century for securing a larger place in the school curriculum for the teaching of Dutch. Theoretically, so far as the letter of the law was concerned, any school committee was at liberty to choose its own medium of instruction, but as a matter of practice the English language was the only medium employed. There were very few teachers who were able to impart instruction in both languages, the normal training of teachers at the recognized institutions was confined to English, school inspectors performed their work in English, and even should a school committee succeed in overcoming these wellnigh insuperable obstacles, it was faced with the lack of suitable school-books in any other language than English. Under circumstances such as these it is no wonder that interest in the Dutch language and literature languished. This was keenly felt by Mr. Murray, who therefore gave notice of the following motion to the Synod of 1890:—“That the Synod do appoint a committee to advise as to the means to be employed in order to satisfy the desire for better provision for the teaching of Dutch in the public schools.”

When the Synod assembled, Mr. Murray was elected Moderator, and he had accordingly to abstain from taking part ex officio in the discussion on this question, but his motion was immediately adopted. The report which the committee thus appointed brought in forms a valuable landmark in the history of the Dutch question in South Africa. It was debated by the Synod in two successive sessions and adopted with remarkable unanimity. The paragraphs of greatest importance are these—

1. Your Committee considers it a great gain that the article in the Education Ordinance which provided that English should be the medium of instruction has now been rescinded, so that school committees are at liberty to decide what the medium shall be. One of the chief difficulties has thus been removed.

2. Your Committee draws the attention of the Synod to what it believes to be a sound pedagogic principle, namely, that beginners should receive instruction in their mother-tongue, as is the case in other bilingual countries.

3. Inspectors of those schools in which instruction is imparted in both languages should be able to examine in both languages, . . .

9. In all our schools certain subjects, especially history, sacred and profane, and descriptive geography, should be taught through the medium of Dutch.

10. In all examinations questions on the Dutch language should be couched in Dutch, though the candidate should be at liberty to answer them in English, if preferred.

Your Committee cannot refrain from pointing out to the Synod that, owing partly to the dearth of teachers who have an adequate knowledge of both languages, and partly to misapprehension or lack of interest among our people, much will still have to be done before the language of the Church attains to that place in our schools to which, as the tongue of the majority of the population, it is entitled. Your Committee therefore regards it as indispensable that the Synod should use its powerful influence in rousing our people to greater zeal in promoting the study of the mother-speech, and to a deeper sense of the great importance of this matter with reference to the welfare of our Church and the history of our people. If this sense is not kindled and kept alive, all our efforts will fail, and all we attempt to effect an alteration in our schools and our examination system will be fruitless.

During the following twenty years the gradual acknowledgment of the rights of the Dutch language proceeded apace. At the very time when the Synod had the subject under discussion and passed the resolution quoted above, a congress was held in Cape Town which issued in the erection of the Taal Bond (Language Union)—a body which had for its objects the encouragement of the study of Dutch, and the vindication of the rights of that language in school, in society, and in public life generally. This Bond owed its existence mainly to the efforts of the Hon. J. H. Hofmeyr, than whom the Dutch language has had no stauncher advocate in South Africa. Its rights had been secured in Parliament as early as 1882, and in the years following upon 1890 they were successively acknowledged in the public schools, the university examinations, the civil service and the law courts. Finally, in 1910, when the union of the states of South Africa was consummated, the 137th article of the Act of Union provided that “both the English and Dutch languages shall be official languages of the Union,” and thus the long endeavour to obtain complete recognition for the mother-tongue of the greater part of the population was crowned with ultimate success.

For many suggestions as to the nature and methods of Christian education Mr. Murray was indebted to The Life and Letters of Edward Thring—a book which he was never weary of recommending both to teachers generally and to his fellow-ministers. He used to say that Thring had taught him the important lesson, which was as valuable for the minister as for the teacher, “that the most backward pupil has as much claim upon the teacher’s earnest attention as the cleverest.” To elucidate this truth he gives the following account of Thring’s educational experiences—

Edward Thring, one of the greatest schoolmasters in England during the nineteenth century, was educated at Eton, a famous English public school. When he left that institution, he was dux of the school in his studies and captain of the school sports. He had no reason to complain of what the school had done for him personally. But he was under a deep impression of the injustice continually done to other boys. He saw that great attention was paid to clever youths, so that when they went to the University they secured the first prizes, and so upheld the honour of the school. But very little trouble was taken with the lower divisions and with the greater portion of the pupils, and each one was allowed to study as much or as little as he pleased. He considered that this conduct was not honest towards the parents of the lads, who naturally expected that every pupil would receive an equal amount of care.

After he had become a clergyman, and had been appointed curate in a certain parish, it fell to him to teach a school of children of the labouring classes, who were for the most part very dull. With his university training he found it a difficult matter to discover the key to the mind and heart of these children. But he came to the conclusion that the poorer the material the greater the skill of the workman who could make something of it, and that if he could make no success of his task the fault and shame would be his own. This thought inspired him with courage to continue. And when in subsequent years he stood at the head of a great public school, he often insisted that his success was due to the principle that he had brought with him from Eton, namely, that the weakest pupil has the same claim upon the teacher’s care as the quickest, and to the opportunity which the indigent school had afforded him of putting his principle into practice.

Another writer to whom Mr. Murray acknowledged his indebtedness for valuable pedagogic principles stands at the opposite extreme from Edward Thring. It is Herbert Spencer. The Rev. B. P. J. Marchand once related that on a certain occasion he was journeying overland in the same cart as Mr. Murray, when at a convenient spot they outspanned to rest the horses. During the halt a discussion arose on some point in connexion with education. To enforce his arguments Mr. Murray fetched his travelling bag from the cart, opened it, and produced a copy of Spencer’s Sociology. "I am busy writing something on the education of our children,” he said in explanation, “ and with a view to that I am studying this book.” The volume which subsequently appeared from Mr. Murray’s pen was entitled The Children for Christ.

The following letter to one of his daughters who was engaged in teaching is of great interest as revealing Mr. Murray’s conception of the moral and spiritual aspects of the teacher’s task—

To his daughter Kitty.

I was interested in your letter on character building, and will give you some of my thoughts. To my mind the foundation trait ought to be trustworthiness. If a foundation is not trustworthy, the whole house may fall. If a chair is not trustworthy, I cannot sit upon it in safety. Rouse the thought that both God and your fellow-men expect you to be real and true and whole-hearted in everything you do, and in fulfilling every promise you make. When Miss Ferguson and Miss Bliss came out they brought the word reliable with them. I learnt its meaning from them.

Along with this cultivate the sense of personality : I am some one with a character that exercises influence, on whom much depends. This may of course lead to self-importance. But in the Christian life a strong personality may be accompanied by a deep sense of humility in the feeling that we owe everything to God. I am sending you a book on Prayer, in which the thought of the power of personality with God is very strongly put. You will also note how frequently the epithets are used intense, heroic, whole-hearted, etc. It gives the impression of being what God wants us to be, both with God and with man.

In this connexion study the thought of how little Christians put that intensity and determination into their religion which they put into their daily life. If there were in every congregation people simply determined on knowing God’s will and doing it—in very deed set upon it— how much more the Word of God would profit them. I suppose you have seen the definition of character as a perfectly fashioned will. Try and get clear in your own mind and in the mind of your pupils the blessing and the power of a will always ready for God’s will. Thy will be done, whether it be in the Lord’s Prayer or in Gethsemane, is the highest expression for a heavenly life and a Christ-like life upon the earth. That will make true character. . . . The Lord bless you with the souls you are moulding for time and for eternity, for Africa and for heaven.

Mr. Murray’s great services to the cause of religion and education were recognized by the governing bodies of two universities. In 1898 his Alma Mater, the University of Aberdeen, conferred upon him the honorary degree of D.D., as an acknowledgment of the widespread influence which he wielded by his many books on theological and devotional themes. Nine years later, in 1907, he was similarly honoured by the University of the Cape of Good Hope, which bestowed on him the degree of Litt.D. honoris causa. In presenting Dr. Murray for the degree Mr. Advocate Searle, K.C., said, inter alia—

Dr. Murray is known throughout South Africa as a preacher of great intellectual power and spiritual insight; and his works, translated into many foreign languages, have received a wide recognition in Europe and America. Through a ministry extending over nearly sixty years Dr. Murray has been an earnest advocate of that system of national education in which the work of the public school is strengthened by the influence of the well-regulated school-home. During his ministry in Bloemfontein, and largely through his influence, the Grey College was founded ; and to his arduous ministerial duties he added for a time the duty of resident head^of the college. During his residence in Cape Town Dr. Murray assisted in founding the Young Men’s Christian Association, and was chosen its first president. His ministry at Wellington has been identified with educational work in many forms. Through his exertions the Huguenot Seminary at Wellington was founded in 1873 : and this has been the model of most of the large boarding-schools for girls in South Africa. Twenty-five years later the Huguenot College was recognized as an arts department for the education of women students. Side by side with the Huguenot College and Seminary there have been developed, under Dr. Murray’s auspices, a. high school for boys, a training institute for missionary teachers, and a training college for teachers for public schools. The Dutch Reformed Church, recognizing the high theological and administrative gifts of Dr. Murray, has paid him the unprecedented honour of electing him to the chair of Moderator in six synods. His own university of Aberdeen has conferred on him its degree of Doctor of Divinity. Through his counsel and example in the work of national education in South Africa Dr. Murray has contributed in no ordinary measure to prepare the foundations on which the work of this University must rest. The University desires that the name of so distinguished a South African as Dr. Murray may be connected permanently with its history, and I therefore ask you, Mr. Vice-Chancellor, to confer upon him the honorary degree of Doctor of Literature.

As to the manner in which the University congregation welcomed the venerable honorary graduate, we have the following interesting letter from Professor Walker of Stellenbosch to Mrs. Neethling, Dr. Murray’s sister—

Dear Mrs. Neethling,—Your daughter, when visiting here this afternoon, told Mrs. Walker that you are going to question Dr. Murray next time you see him as to his reasons for mixing with such childish or worldly displays as “capping’’ ceremonies.

I think if you had seen the whole assembly rise to its feet when Dr. Murray came forward, and listen respectfully while the “brief” was read of the reasons why the University Council wished to have his name permanently enrolled on their list of distinguished South Africans, you could not have felt that the ceremony was frivolous. I can well believe that more than one of the young graduates felt the honour and responsibility of their own degree all the more because they were receiving it in such distinguished companionship. And older members of the audience felt glad to be permitted to join in the Well done which was the silent agreement of all hearts there. I feel sure I can speak for many intimately connected with the University, who felt that our work had been honoured by Dr. Murray consenting to unite himself with us. I can’t say how other people were looking at the moment; my own eyes were filled with tears. I think a very precious memory has been added to the history of the University by Saturday’s ceremony.

I am very anxious to win your approval to the course Dr. Murray took in accepting the honorary degree. I was the one who proposed Dr. Murray’s name for the degree in the Honorary Degrees Committee, and it fell to me to prepare the "brief” stating the grounds for conferring the degree. I was more than half afraid that Dr. Murray might have a feeling like his sister’s on the subject; but I did not venture (though sorely tempted) to write a word to him on the subject. It was a gleam of encouragement to me, when the Dutch Reformed Synod received the intimation of the honorary degree to be conferred with marked cordiality ; and I was delighted to hear Dr. Murray’s own letter of acceptance read at the last meeting of the University Council, just a week before Degree Day.

Return to Book Index Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus