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The Life of Andrew Murray of South Africa
Chapter XXIII. Death, Funeral and Tributes

Believe me, a life lived in earnest does not die; it goes on for ever. —Edward Thring.

Praise to the Holiest in the height,
And in the depth be praise:
In all His words most wonderful;
Most sure in all His ways.

J. H. Newman.

THE story of the last months of Andrew Murray’s earthly course can he told in few words. During the August of 1916 he contracted the heavy cold with concomitant bronchitis, from which he never recovered. On the 16th September a grievous loss befell the family at Clairvaux, and the nearer circle at Graaff-Reinet, in the death of the eldest son, Lieut. A. Haldane Murray, in an action fought in East Africa. For some weeks the evil news was kept from the aged father, and when at length the tidings were communicated he bore them with Christian resignation and fortitude. But there can be no doubt that the passing of this beloved son cast a burden of grief upon Mr. Murray’s heart, and served to hasten the inevitable end. Towards the close of October, however, he seemed to regain a little of his lost strength, and was able to take a short drive by motor-car. Arrangements were then made for his removal to Kalk Bay, his favourite seaside resort, where the month of November was spent. But recovery was a slow process, and it was greatly retarded by the exceptional heat of that summer. When Mr. Murray returned to Wellington he was heard lamenting that he was still unable to resume his writing. The oppressive heat of Wellington was doubly trying after the fresh breezes of Kalk Bay, and it soon became evident that his strength was sagging. A brief paragraph in the Kerkbode of nth January, 1917, gave these details:—

The following communication has reached us concerning that old and revered servant of God, Dr. A. Murray. He continues weak, though his heart is still fairly strong, and he is generally up each day. The great heat affects him unfavourably. His mind is not always perfectly clear, and in his wanderings he appears to be always occupied with his fellow-ministers, asking them repeatedly to give themselves to more prayer. Talking in a lucid interval of the past year, he said that it was full of answers to prayer, and of grace vouchsafed for days of need and trial, but on the other hand it testified to a wealth of unappropriated grace which we had not obtained because of our lack of prayer. He dwells frequently upon the necessity of taking more time to contemplate the wonderful love and grace of God, of which we have so feeble a conception. The condition of our people weighs heavily upon him, and impelled him to cry one night, "Pray, pray, pray, that our people may be strong in righteousness." On another occasion he said, “We are perishing through selfishness. What we need is men who will really sacrifice themselves for the cause of education, and wifi so devote themselves to the poor that the problem of the ‘ poor whites ’ will be solved."

It was plain that the end could not be far off. At one time the invalid imagined that he was in a steamer voyaging over stormy seas, for he turned to one of his daughters and said, “ The wind is blowing a gale and the tempest is raging: I think you must ask the captain to put into the nearest port.” His voyage had been a long one, and not free from heavy storms; but he was nearing the harbour, and quiet water lay ahead. He entered into rest on Thursday evening, the 18th January, 1917. Of him who during his life was pre-eminently a man of prayer it may be truly said that he died praying. In his last moments, so we are informed, he fell to praying, magnifying the Lord’s goodness and glory and grace, and rejoicing aloud in the God of his salvation. The current of spiritual life, which had flowed out in prayer during all his earthly days, set in the same direction still when his faculties were overclouded at the approach of death.

At the very last, when the members of the family were grouped around the bedside in silent expectation of the end, they observed his forehead contracting—as was customary with him when he closed his eyes to pray—and waited for the words of praise or intercession which should issue from his trembling lips. But the voice was silent for ever. The contraction of the forehead was his last perceptible movement. He was gone—praying!

The following details of the funeral obsequies, which took place on Saturday, 20th January, is taken from the columns of the daily press. The last honours were paid to the memory of the saintly Dr. Andrew Murray amid many manifestations of the sorrow of the people in whose midst he had lived and laboured for more than forty-five years. Shops and places of business were closed, and all Wellington assembled in the great church of the Dutch Reformed community to testify to their veneration for the man of God whose praise was in all the Churches of Christendom. The members of the family and their intimate friends gathered first at Clairvaux, the home of the deceased, where the Rev. Andrew McGregor, an old and valued colleague and friend, offered prayer. Shortly after four o’clock the cortege left for the church, where a silent and sorrowful multitude sat waiting. The service was conducted by Rev. D. G. Malan, the local pastor, who led in prayer ; Prof. P. J. G. de Vos, who delivered the funeral address; Rev. J. R. Albertyn, who described the work and influence of the deceased as Church leader ; and Rev. D. S. Botha, who offered the closing prayer. The ceremony at the graveside was performed by Rev. C. H. Radloff. The burial took place in the churchyard surrounding the Dutch Reformed church, the grave being immediately to the right of the main entrance. During the service the coffin rested upon supports in front of the pulpit; and as the bearers entered and left the building the organist rendered the Lachrymosa from the Requiem, and the Dead March from Saul. The impressive proceedings were attended by some sixty ministers of the Dutch Reformed Church as well as by prominent citizens from many surrounding towns, and telegrams of condolence were received from all parts of the country, and from the highest officials of the land. The Archbishop of Cape Town sent a special message of sympathy, expressing, in the name of the Church of the Province of South Africa, his sorrow at the death of Dr. Murray, and his profound thankfulness for the life and work of one who had approved himself as so true and faithful a servant of God.

Andrew Murray's death was the signal for a spontaneous outburst of gratitude and affection, and tributes both public and private to his great life-work and exalted Christian character flowed from men of all classes and in all departments of life. Only a few extracts are possible from the large number of appreciations which were received by letter or appeared in the public press. The Hon. John X. Merriman, P.C., the Nestor of Cape politicians, wrote :—

I am afraid that I am in no sense either competent or worthy to write an appreciation of that man of God, Andrew Murray. How far was he removed in thought and feeling from us worldlings, especially from the political variety. He belonged to another world from onrs. 'For him “the vision splendid” had never died away, or faded into the light of common day.

If ever there was a dweller in the household of faith, it was Andrew Murray. Born and nurtured in that grim faith which makes men strong rather than lovable, nothing could dry up that fountain of love which was the very soul of Andrew Murray’s being. It was given to him, a Calvinist, to write books of devotion that met with the highest commendation at the hands of the most High Church Anglican Bishops —books which have been a source of consolation and comfort to many weary souls in travail, in many lands and of many creeds. . . .

My own personal intercourse with him was small and infrequent. I admired and respected from afar. But on those occasions when we were brought into contact, and still more on those when he honoured me with his correspondence, it was one of my highest rewards to feel that I had the approval of that good man. He is gone, and his departure severs a link with the past. Well for us all would it be if we could bury in his grave that racial bitterness and social discord against which his whole life was a protest. That would be a tribute to his memory worthy of the man and of his spotless and self-denying career.

After the politician we may let the journalist speak. The editor of the Cape Times said:—

Dr. Murray had a severe illness a few months ago which, especially at so advanced an age, only a man of quite extraordinary vitality could have survived. As it was, he pulled through, and came back from the Valley of the Shadow with all his faculties unimpaired,1 and with the same cheerful serenity and wide sweep of intellectual and social interest which distinguished him throughout his long and selfless life. At the end the summons to the venerable old man seems to have been sudden, but it was a summons for which, however and whenever it came, no mortal was ever better prepared. Deeply versed in theology, a pillar of the Dutch Reformed Church for more than half a century, a most impressive preacher, a powerful apostle of missions, a sane and liberal educationist, a friend of science—for “are not the thoughts of science God’s thoughts?" as he once said in opening the chemical laboratory at the Wellington College—an unostentatious helper in all good works,—there was something more than all these things in Andrew Murray which lifted him above all eminent South Africans of his day and generation, something which is perhaps most significantly summed up by saying that if ever there was a saint on South African earth, it was he. For ourselves, in the little we were privileged to come in contact with him, he seemed more than any ecclesiastic we ever met to radiate a justification for Ruskin’s hope of “ a Christian Church which shall depend neither on ignorance for its continuance nor on controversy for its progress, but shall reign at once in light and love.”

Men of other creeds and denominations were not backward in the expression of their reverence for the character and teachings of the departed father. The Rev. Dr. Kolbe, of St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Cathedral, in the course of a noble tribute in The Cape, said:—

The name of Andrew Murray is graven with an iron pen and lead on the rock of South African history, and there it will stand for ever. But it is also written in softer characters on the hearts of many, and in that gentler form of survival it will endure far beyond the ordinary lot of human names. I have known only one unkind word ever said of him, and that was (strange to say) in the Synod of his own Church. He had written a piece of advice (never mind what: it was his, and it was wise), and one member, not liking it, said that Dr. Murray was growing old. Old ! Of course he was, but with an age more full of honour than of years, and more full of wisdom than of honour. I wonder the whole Synod did not rise and cry shame : perhaps it did, but the fact was not recorded. No: age brings no mental or spiritual loss to such a man. A man who in public or in private consistently follows the highest ideals

never weakens at the end : bodily ailments he will have, which do but draw our hearts to him, but his soul will always burn clear. "The path of the just is as a shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” . . .

When I came back from Europe, of course, he did not like my change to Catholicism; but I went to him, and we both spoke frankly. There was no quarrel. There was no bitterness in Andrew Murray : his nature was sweet to the core. And as I brought to him all the old affectionate reverence and gratitude, there could be no strife. They say it takes two to make a quarrel: here there wasn’t one. Of course, our paths lay apart. I could not in any way, however humbly, join my activities to his—such separations are among the sacrifices of life; but it has always been a gladness to me that no cloud ever arose between us. He is gone now, and I do not think I am saying anything derogatory to the present generation if I say he has not left his equal behind. . . .

Andrew Murray lived his full time and more. He is an ideal instance of Aristotle’s famous definition of happiness : ’’The fullest exercise of our highest energies in a congenial medium to the proportioned end.” He had no more to give us: we had no more to give him. There was no mid-autumn spoiling of the crop: but the whole matured harvest fully gathered in without shortcoming and without loss. And what a harvest!

From a just and generous appreciation by the editor of De Kerkbode (Rev. G. S. Malan) we select the following attempt to delineate some traits in Andrew Murray’s manysided character:—

In summing up the chief characteristics of the image of goodness which he presented we think first of all of the passionate earnestness which filled his soul. This impressed every one—those most of all who came into closest contact with him. At all times, and in everything he did, there glowed the fire of this deep earnestness. His calling and responsibility—both as a Christian in private life and as a servant of God in the interests of the Kingdom—were to him matters of the holiest moment, which he strove to perform with all the strength of his being. He seemed to live continually, though unconsciously, under the constraint of the searching words of the Preacher: "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no device nor work nor knowledge nor wisdom in the grave whither thou goest.” His was an earnestness which half affrighted and half repelled ; but all who knew the tender soul and humble heart that beat within him, were speedily arrested and overcome by it.

A second trait which characterized him was his lofty nobility of character. Who ever discovered anything low or mean or ignoble in his conduct ? Who ever heard him mingle in the idle talk that gloats over the faults and defects and sins of another ? Who did not feel instinctively in his presence that he had to do with one who led an exalted life, was occupied with exalted matters, cherished exalted ideals, and exercised an elevating influence? His life exemplified, in a greater degree than any other we have known, the apostolic precept: "Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue and if there he any praise, think on these things." In this connexion we call to mind his courtesy—that kindly and cultured bearing towards all, even his inferiors, which proclaimed him the perfect Christian gentleman; his humility—which led him to treat with innate respect the person and the opinions of another, and withheld him, in spite of his pre-eminent gifts, from exercising the temper of a tyrant; his unselfishness—by virtue of which he spent himself, silently and uncomplainingly, in acts of selfsacrifice for others ; his love—always ready to see what was best in others, bearing all things, believing all things, hoping all things, enduring all things. We remember, too, his sincerity, his fidelity, his perfect rectitude—which dispelled every doubt that his word could be implicitly relied on, or that he would fulfil his duty at all hazards ; and which made it impossible that he could ever over-reach another or inflict on any man a malicious wound. His courageous faithfulness to the truth and to his own conscientious convictions procured him many adversaries, but never, to our knowledge, did he make a single personal enemy through any lack of Christian courtesy.

Another trait of character may be mentioned—his absolute devotion to his calling and his work. He had laid himself upon God’s altar, body, soul, and spirit, with all his gifts and talents, with all his time and strength and possessions. He had no worldly by-ends : he knew no personal ambition. Everything was placed at the service of his Saviour. He was always and everywhere, first and foremost, a minister of the Gospel, who had consecrated himself wholly to this high calling, and regarded the ministry as his greatest honour and privilege. He could truly take as his own the words of St. Paul to the Ephesian elders: “None of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the Gospel of the grace of God."

Another fine appreciation, which was published some months before Dr. Murray passed away, is from the pen of Dr. J. I. Marais, Professor at the Stellenbosch Theological Seminary, who was closely associated with Dr. Murray in many ecclesiastical and social undertakings, and therefore speaks from an intimate knowledge. Professor Marais wrote:—

Emerson has said somewhere: "Every man is a cause, a country and an age. . . . All history resolves itself very easily into the biography of a few stout and earnest persons.” These words may fitly be applied to Dr. Andrew Murray ; for few men in South Africa have had an influence more wide-spreading than he, few have left such an impress upon their time and their generation. That influence has been extensive as well as intensive. The Dutch Reformed Church, which claims him as her own, and to which his best energies have been devoted for many years, has felt the intensiveness of that influence, has been, and still is, under the spell of his wonderful personality. There is hardly an institution—ecclesiastical, educational, philanthropic, religious—within the purview of the Dutch Reformed Church, which has not benefited by his advice, or received a strong impulse from his prayers; few of these institutions have not been initiated by him. For his sympathies are wide as his religious life is deep. Even in feeble old age, with a body bent and frail, he takes the keenest interest in whatever good is done or attempted by the Church of his fathers, or the Church of God in any comer of the globe. With Wesley he might say, "The world is my parish."

Hence in his devotional works—and they are many—he appeals to thousands and tens, if not hundreds, of thousands. These books were written with a purpose : in them he discusses the highest problems of religious life, with a simplicity which the most immature Christian can appreciate, and the trained theologian would wish to emulate. They are appeals to the heart; because with Vinet he believes that “the heart has reasons whereof the intellect knows nothing.” And yet they are not the utterances of mere high-strung emotion, but the reasoned discussion of subjects to which many a theological treatise has been devoted. They embody a theology which is the result of extensive reading and of long-continued, prayerful meditation. The name of the author comes with a benediction, his words are an inspiration, to many a Dutch and English home in South Africa.

And yet Andrew Murray has never sought fame. Apparently he is a man without ambition—except perhaps the ambition so characteristic of St. Paul, the philotimia "to preach the Gospel” and to be "well-pleasing to God.” He was, and is, essentially a preacher. In the days of his prime, his appeals have stirred thousands; for his influence in the pulpit was magnetic. His tremendous earnestness has swayed men’s minds as the wind sways the cornfield. Bilingual, with a thorough command of both English and Dutch, he was at home on many a platform, whether in South Africa or Holland or England or America. Set speeches he has never delivered ; an oration from his lips would be an anomaly and an impossibility. He was, and is, as he professes to be, a minister of the Gospel; and in no other capacity has he ever appeared before the public.

No one can understand Andrew Murray without reckoning with two things. He is essentially “a man of prayer,” and at the same time “a man of affairs.” The eternal world is to him an intense reality, not a matter of speculation : things spiritual in his case dominate the temporal. The "new life,” which in his books is discussed in various ways, is developed by prayer, which to Andrew Murray means unbroken communion with the Unseen, intercession for others, fellowship in feeling and suffering with the Church of God in all portions of the globe. On the subject of prayer he has written repeatedly ; and book after book was welcomed. For every new book on the subject was fresh and stimulating, and not a mere repetition of the preceding volume. "The sense of the eternal,” it has been said, “is the great lack of the Church to-day.” This Andrew Murray believes. Hence he insists on the message: "Pray, brethren, pray.” He is essentially a mystic. Life for him means simply activity “ permeated and purified by the sense of the Eternal Presence—as the peasants in Alpine villages live in the presence of mighty mountain ranges, lightening in the morning and evening glow, or growing solemn and terrible as thunder broods on their summits.”

But Andrew Murray is not a mere anchorite, a mystic dreamer of dreams, whose "other-worldliness” lies beyond the influence of earthly stress and strain. He is essentially a man of action. At eighty-eight years of age the keenness of his intellect and his amazing vitality are a marvel to his friends. The joie de vivre is his in the truest sense of the term. He feels that he has a mission given him by God, a task to be performed, a message still to proclaim, a book or two still to be written Some years ago a friend approached him with the request, “Will you not give us some of your reminiscences?” The answer was characteristic: "I have far better things to do than to talk and write about myself.”

Enough has been said. This is not a biographical sketch. Biography comes in due order, when life’s last chapter has been written, and the man himself is but a memory, and to many a mere name. Andrew Murray is still with us; a mystic, a prophet, and withal a humble-minded follower of the Master he has served for all these years. His has been a full life. In 1849, a mere lad in appearance, he went to Bloemfontein as a pioneer. In 1916, frail in body, keen in spirit, he is still planning, praying, prophesying, inspiring. A man is immortal as long as God has a task for him to fulfil.

To estimate Andrew Murray’s influence is a task beyond our powers. His name will not bulk largely in the political history of the country, which is so richly interlarded with the names not only of great statesmen and sagacious leaders, but of orators, publicists, capitalists, officials, and politicians of varying shades of opinion and varying degrees of capacity. But he has left, nevertheless, an indelible impress upon the character of the South African people. During the eighties and nineties of the last century, his tireless journeys as Gospel-preacher brought him into personal contact with every minister and almost every congregation of the Dutch Reformed Church. The other Free Churches of the land, too, were always glad to welcome him to their pulpits, while clergymen of the evangelical section of the Anglican Church enjoyed fraternal intercourse with him on many a common platform. In this way the influence of Andrew Murray's rich and intense personality permeated the whole South African community, recalling men and women from vain delights to the contemplation and pursuit of the highest ideals in their public and their private life. He was a great, an inestimable gift of God to the people of this land—the greatest in our whole history : nor can we conceive that Divine Providence has any greater gift to bestow upon us in the years to come.

The influence which radiated from Andrew Murray was all-pervasive. Many Christians would, almost unconsciously, translate the law of virtue from the abstract into the concrete by asking, “What would Mr. Murray say ? What would Mr. Murray do?” The intensity of his convictions led him at times to put his case with an emphasis—an over-emphasis —which gave rise to misunderstanding, and his statements were frequently challenged; but no one ever ventured to challenge his motives or censure his conduct. These lay beyond the reach of criticism. He thus became a moral standard by which men set and measured their lives—a standard not enshrined in ethical maxim or religious precept, but incarnated in a living and breathing personality. We all felt that Andrew Murray could say, without hypocrisy and without incongruity: “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.”

Of his influence upon the Christian world at large it ill becomes the present writer to speak. That influence can be far more justly estimated by those who are in closer touch with the spiritual life of the Churches. In this volume a few testimonies only have been recorded from men and women who found in Andrew Murray’s books a guidance and a stimulus, an inspiration and a joy, which no other devotional writings could impart. But these testimonies tell us hardly anything of the rich blessings disseminated throughout the world, in many Christian homes, from many Christian pulpits, in cottages and in castles, among care-burdened souls in great cities and weary workers in distant mission-fields, by the consecrated pen of this South African saint. Everywhere, to the remotest bounds of our globe, a great host of Andrew Murray's spiritual children will rise up and call him blessed.

And being dead, he speaketh yet. For we cannot imagine a time when Andrew Murray’s words will have spent their force, and will be consigned to that oblivion which has overtaken the writings of so many authors who were famous in their day and generation. The issues with which he deals are eternal issues : the manner in which he deals with these issues is characterized by a sane and sanctified common sense: the spirit which breathes through all is that of a tender and yearning love. Is it too much to prophesy that Andrew Murray’s works will take their place upon our bookshelves next to Augustine and a Kempis and Lancelot Andrewes and William Law, and will continue to establish the faith and kindle the love and reinforce the purposes of unborn generations of the children of God?

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