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The Life of Andrew Murray of South Africa
Chapter XVI. Andrew Murray as a Church Leader


To revive in the Church a fuller consciousness of its mysterious dignity, and a truer conception of its great purpose ; to re-kindle the faith that Christ not only guides His Church and watches over it, but is actually present in the midst of it,—this seemed to him at that time the one task to which he had been set.—From the Biography of R. W. Dale.

THE unique position which Andrew Murray occupied in the Dutch Reformed Church is clearly apparent from the fact that he was six times chosen as Moderator of Synod,—the Synod being the equivalent in South Africa of the General Assemblies of the Scottish Churches. His first election to this honourable and responsible position took place in 1862, when the Church was engaged in a life and death struggle with Liberalism, supported by the secular powers. This episode has been described in Chapter X. At the two subsequent Synods, those of 1867 and 1873, the choice of a Moderator fell upon the Rev. Dr. Philip Faure. This certainly did not betoken any lack of confidence in Mr. Murray, nor did it cast any reflection, even by implication, upon his great ability as occupant of the moderatorial chair. It was due perhaps to the feeling that he had identified himself somewhat markedly with one of the parties in the Church, and that moderator of more neutral tint was desirable in order to maintain the balance, and bring about, if possible, the reconciliation of divergent interests. Dr. Philip Faure, dignified, able, conciliatory, and yet a staunch supporter of the doctrinal standards of the Church, was such a man. He is the only Church leader who can even compare with Mr. Murray in the tenure of the moderatorship, having occupied the chair at four different Synods.

From 1876 and onwards Mr. Murray was regularly chosen as Moderator by each successive Synod, with the sole exception of that of 1880, when he was suffering from relaxation of the throat, and was unable to fulfil the onerous duties of the office. In 1897, when in his seventieth year, he definitely declared that if elected he should decline to accept the nomination, and the choice thereupon fell on his brother-in-law, the Rev. J. H. Hofmeyr, who was also re-elected at the following Synod in 1903. These were the last two assemblies which Mr. Murray attended, for before the following Synod met in 1906 he had become an emeritus minister. He himself was far from expecting that such repeated honours would fall to his share, for though he knew that he had a distinct message for the Church, he was uncertain as to the measure of confidence which his teachings and his attitude on ecclesiastical questions in general inspired. On the 9th October, 1883, he writes to his wife: “To my utter amazement I am Moderator again. How or why, I know not. May the Lord give me grace to act so that any influence I have to exert may be for His glory, and to testify for a religion that is higher than organization and work.”

It was customary at that time to invite the Governor, the chief civil functionaries, and the ministers of other Christian denominations to be present at the formal opening of the Synod, and on such occasions Mr. Murray’s bilingualism stood him in good stead. At the conclusion of his inaugural sermon he would address the Governor in English, assuring him of the Church’s loyalty to the throne, and of her desire to support the Government in its endeavours to promote the well-being of land and people. Turning next to the representatives of the other religious bodies, he would dwell upon the fundamental agreement which underlay their superficial differences, invite to closer union and co-operation, and end upon a solemn note by summoning each and all to a renewed consecration of themselves and their charges to the service of the common Master.

In his conduct of the proceedings of Synod Mr. Murray displayed qualities which would have commanded respect and admiration in any chairman. He possessed firmness without obstinacy, tolerance without compliancy, and impartiality without indecision. While resolute to uphold the dignity of the chair, he was courteous and tactful in public and readily accessible in private. Among his most outstanding qualifications for the office he was called to fulfil were his remarkable insight into the true bearing of the subject under discussion and his rapid decision as to the best course to pursue. As the words quoted above will suggest, he was no stickler for the letter of the law, while at the same time he evinced a thorough knowledge of ecclesiastical procedure, and perfect loyalty to the regulations of the Church and the decisions of the Synod.

A fellow-minister who was closely associated with him in the work of the Synod has given the following instance of Mr. Murray’s ready insight into complicated questions. A matter affecting a difficult point of Church law had been introduced, and the Synod, finding itself unable to reach a decision, appointed a small committee, of which Mr. Murray was a member, to suggest a feasible solution—their report to be considered at the afternoon session. The time was brief, and the committee resolved to meet an hour before the afternoon sederunt. At the appointed hour, however, only one member of the committee had arrived. The minutes passed. One or two more put in an appearance, and entered upon a desultory discussion of the matter laid before them. It wanted but twelve minutes to the hour when Mr. Murray hurried in.

I am sorry, brethren, that I could not be here sooner; but I hope you have the report ready for me to sign.” No, was the reply, we have been waiting for your arrival. However, as there is no time to discuss the question now, we shalhhave to request the Synod to postpone the consideration of our report.”

"Not at all,” said Mr. Murray, “there are still twelve minutes, which are all that we require.” And turning to the youngest committee-member he asked: “Can you write quickly? then take a pen and write to my dictation.”

Within the twelve minutes he had dictated a luminous report, setting forth the nature of the issues and suggesting the procedure that should be followed. His fellow-members agreed that the report could not be bettered. It was signed forthwith, presented to the Synod, and adopted by that body as a solution in every way satisfactory.

It need hardly be said that Mr. Murray displayed great tact in guiding the discussions, by no means always academical, which took place in the Assembly. His knowledge of human nature was unsurpassed, as was to be expected of one who had performed more journeys, backward and forward across the face of the country, and had been thrown into closer contact with men of all classes and all colours, than any other minister in the Church. He knew how to intervene in a debate at the psychological moment, and to suggest that a matter which was exciting strong feelings, or which needed to have more light cast upon it, should be referred to a committee for consideration and report. In the appointment of committees he exercised great wisdom and the strictest impartiality. It was seldom indeed that a ruling given by him as chairman, or an appointment made, was challenged by any member of the Synod. His personality and lofty Christian character inspired at all times the utmost regard and confidence. So great were the love and esteem in which he was held that on one occasion the Synod, creating a precedent which has never since been followed, presented him with a golden watch and chain, as a mark of its appreciation of his ability and devotion to duty in the moderatorial chair.

Andrew Murray was not merely a capable Moderator of Synod. He was a great Church statesman. He possessed all the qualifications for true and effective leadership. He recognized both the strength and the weakness of the Church which he served. He divined with infallible precision the ailments from which it suffered, and laboured to remove or ameliorate them. He knew also what the Church was capable of, and strove to call forth and strengthen the powers which still slumbered unutilized. In almost all new developments he not merely took the initiative but also supplied the driving force. He was the acknowledged leader in any committee on which he sat, being possessed of a mind which firmly grasped the largest issues without neglecting the smallest minutiae. His knowledge of details was truly marvellous, and the writer of these lines, who was associated with him on more than one board, had frequent cause to remark that Mr. Murray’s acquaintance with any given subject under consideration was equal to that of all the other members combined.

We may take as an instance of his active interest in all that appertained to the welfare of the Church his endeavours on behalf of Sunday-schools and the Sunday-school movement. In October, 1884, he was chairman of an influential conference, called by the Sunday-school Union of South Africa, and attended by ministers and Sunday-school teachers of various denominations. This conference, which was held at the Paarl, lasted three days, and was characterized by great enthusiasm and earnestness. No sooner was the gathering over, than Mr. Murray set himself to spread the spirit of the conference by means of a circular letter, which was forwarded to every Sunday-school and every Sunday-school teacher in South Africa. In this letter, under the guise of reporting the proceedings of the conference, he set forth in pointed language the purpose and the methods of Sunday-school work. We venture to give the following abbreviated version—

THE AIMS OF THE SUNDAY-SCHOOL.

1. From the very commencement [of the Conference] the distinction was emphasized between what belongs to the outward'organization of the Sunday-school and the inward living power with which the whole work should be infused. Wherever there is life, we have a body that must serve the spirit and a spirit that inspires and directs the body. The best machinery is powerless unless the steam that must set it in motion be present. But the greatest steam-power is rendered futile unless the machinery is in forking order. The arrangement, the conduct and the instruction of the Sunday-school must be in accordance with the best principles, in order that the work of God’s grace be not hindered. But on the other hand, we may not let outward prosperity betray us into forgetfulness of the truth that all blessing flows solely from the powerful influence of God’s Holy Spirit.

2. The work of the Sunday-school was defined as instruction in the Word of God—not in books founded on the Word, but in the Word itself. No greater blessing can be bestowed upon the child for his journey through life than to teach him to know and love and use his Bible. For this end it is indispensable that he shall not merely assimilate general truths and facts, but that he shall memorize the very words of Scripture.

3. The aim of the Sunday-school is nothing less than the conversion of the child. To impart religious instruction, to assist children to hallow and love the Sabbath, to draw heart and mind away from earth and set them on things above—all this is important, but it is not what we must really aim at. The child must be brought to Jesus. "My whole class for Jesus” must be the motto and the aim of each teacher.

4. Even this is not all. The child who has given his heart to Christ is still weak in faith. At home he may possibly find little encouragement in his Christian life, and during the week he may be exposed to distraction and temptation. The Sunday-school is often the only place where he can obtain guidance, instruction and encouragement for the new life in Christ. Nor may the child be left in ignorance of his calling to work for Christ. He must be constantly encouraged to engage in missionary effort—taking that expression in its broadest interpretation.

5. In order that the Sunday-school shall attain this twofold purpose —the conversion and the Christian training of the children—the first requisite is a converted teacher. No previous conference has laid greater stress on this demand—the teacher must himself know the Lord before he can lead his class to that knowledge. An unconverted Sunday-school teacher, so said one of the speakers, is an anomaly. Nor must he be converted merely, he must be a wholly consecrated Christian. Let us search for such teachers, let us pray for them, let us endeavour to provide and to train them. The Lord will supply them for the sake of His lambs.

6. Further requisites for an effective Sunday-school are: the right man as superintendent, the man who lives for his school, and seeks to inspire and unite all his fellow-workers ;—the regular visitation of the children in their homes by the teachers;—the weekly gathering of teachers for preparation and prayer;—the co-operation of parents with teachers;—the interest and intercession of the congregation, which must realize how great is the blessing which flows from the Sunday-school, and how integral a part of the Church organization it forms.

7. Another fruitful suggestion was the extension of the Sunday-school to other portions of our land. The Sunday-school teachers of each village should constitute themselves into a committee for the multiplication of Sunday-schools in the wards of the several congregations. There should be no child in the country who does not know that one hour of each Lord’s Day is devoted exclusively to himself. Christian, who may read this, see around you if there are not perchance some who need your assistance in a Sunday-school. Offer yourself to God for this work. He is a Master who can bless the feeble effort, and who bestows a rich reward upon the work of faith.

In 1883 Mr. Murray inaugurated a prayer circle which has proved of incalculable blessing to Dutch-speaking South Africa. This was the Bible and Prayer Union (Bijbel en Bid Vereeniging). The chief aim of this Union was to induce the members of the Church to undertake a course of consecutive daily Bible readings. For this purpose an almanac was issued, which indicated the portions to be read, and also suggested subjects for daily intercession. As the number of members increased, each of whom paid an annual subscription of one shilling, it became possible to enlarge the scope of the Union. Not only the almanac, but an instructive and edifying book of 200 or 300 pages, and an ornamental wall-text, were issued year by year. From small beginnings the Union soon assumed such dimensions that Mr. Murray, in 1885, handed over the secretaryship to the Rev. J. J. T. Marquard, who for some months had been his assistant at Wellington. Under Mr. Marquard’s fostering care the Union grew until it counted a membership of twenty thousand. The books distributed by the Union included translations or adaptations of English and Dutch works, original works on home and foreign missions, South African classics such as the Life of M. C. Vos, and other books of an edifying nature. They were eagerly welcomed in all South African homes, and have done much to kindle a taste for reading among the pastoral population of the Cape.

The subject of prayer was one which early engaged Mr. Murray’s serious attention, as his many books on Prayer

sufficiently attest. In 1884 his mind was particularly occupied with this great question. At the induction service of a young brother (Rev. G. F. Marais) he delivered the charge, taking as his theme The Pastor as man of Prayer. At a conference of ministers held at George the subject was again Prayer, when Mr. Murray preached a powerful sermon from Isaiah lxi. 6, on the Priestly Prayer-life. In concluding this sermon he appealed to his brethren in solemn fashion to join with him in the following confession—

(1) I believe in the holy priesthood of God’s people, and that I too am a priest, with authority to approach Him as intercessor, and to obtain by prevailing prayer a blessing for those who are perishing around me.

(2) I believe in the power of the precious blood to remove everything by which my confidence is impaired, and to cause me to draw near in full assurance of faith that my prayer is accepted.

(3) I believe in the unction of that Spirit who daily streams forth to me from my High Priest to sanctify me, to fill me with the sense of my priestly calling and with love to souls, to teach me what I ought to pray, and to strengthen me in persevering and believing prayer.

(4) I believe that, as the Lord Jesus Himself is my life, so He will be surety for my prayer-life, and will unite me to Himself as sharer in His holy work of intercession.

(5) In this faith I dedicate myself anew to God, in order to approach Him as one of His anointed priests to lay before Him in prayer the deep need of the world, and in His name to call down blessings upon it. Hereunto may God help me!

Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father, to Him be glory fi/nd dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

As the outcome of much meditation and strenuous thought he published in 1885 a volume called De School des Gebeds, which became known to English readers under the title, With Christ in the School of Prayer. Towards the end of his life his thoughts were directed to this subject more continuously than at any previous period. He entered into correspondence with Rev. W. A. Cornaby of China, author of Prayer and the Human Problem. He wrote a preface to Mr. Granger Fleming’s The Dynamic of All-Prayer. He issued in Dutch many appeals for more fervent prayer and for more time to be devoted to prayer. A volume of sermons by a well-known preacher of the day was once placed before him, when he eagerly scanned the table of contents. “There is not a single sermon on Prayer,” he said, with an air of deep disappointment, and set the book aside as one which could have no interest for him. One of his last acts was the establishment of an Intercessory Union of such Christians as would bind themselves to devote not less than fifteen minutes daily to intercession on behalf of others, and for the progress of the cause of God throughout the world. This Union has since his demise received the name of the “ Andrew Murray Prayer Union,” and will, it is hoped, be a lasting memorial to his profound influence as a man of prayer, and his earnest advocacy of the place and power of prayer in the scheme of redemption.

During the eighties of last century the D. R. Church was greatly agitated by a heated controversy over the total abstinence movement. The question unhappily assumed from the outset a pronouncedly personal character. This was due to the fact that the movement was championed by Professor Hofmeyr of Stellenbosch—a man justly revered for his talents, his eloquence and his piety. The first impulse which he received towards an active interest in the cause of temperance came, strangely enough, from Andrew Murray. In 1877 a handsome hall for the use of the Stellenbosch Young Men’s Christian Association was opened by Mr. Murray, on which occasion he related his experiences as to the progress which the temperance movement was making in America. The use of strong drink was gradually disappearing from Christian circles, and Young Men’s Christian Associations were putting forth great efforts to combat the drink evil and promote the cause of total abstinence : and such, added Mr. Murray by way of application, should be the endeavour of societies of Christian young men everywhere.

Acting upon this suggestion, Professor Hofmeyr established a Total Abstinence Society, pleaded the matter he had laid to heart from many pulpits, and sought by means of numerous pamphlets and letters to the Press to awaken the Christian conscience on this urgent question. He maintained that it was the duty of every Christian to deny himself, and to drink no wine nor do any other thing whereby the weaker brother is offended or made to stumble; nay more, that " alcohol is a poison, and that therefore, according to the will of God, its use is forbidden to the healthy human being.”

His attitude aroused a storm of protest. The farmers of the Stellenbosch district, engaged almost exclusively in the production of wine, averred that he was condemning an industry sanctioned by ancient usage, and introduced in South Africa by pious Huguenots who had fled hither to escape the fires of persecution. They insisted on the fact—which could not, indeed, be gainsaid—that the wine-farmers as a class were earnest, God-fearing men, staunch upholders of the Church of their fathers, and liberal in their support of foreign missions and home philanthropies. They pointed out that the Theological Seminary itself, of which Mr. Hofmeyr was senior professor, had been originally erected and was largely maintained by the contributions of wine-farmers; and threatened the withdrawal of their support unless all abstinence propaganda were relinquished. But Professor Hofmeyr stood firm. Feeling ran so high that many absented themselves from divine service when it was known that the Professor would occupy the pulpit; and their opposition so worked upon the latter that for a time he voluntarily resigned the right, accorded to him as professor of theology, of preaching from the Stellenbosch pulpit and dispensing the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper to the Stellenbosch congregation.

The whole question of abstinence came up for discussion at the Synods of 1883 and 1886. Interest was at fever heat. Questions, petitions, proposals, overtures covered the Moderator’s table. At the Synod of 1886 the discussion lasted for three days. Mr. Murray’s sympathies were strongly on the side of abstinence, but he occupied the chair, and was therefore bound to exercise strict impartiality and to moderate between conflicting views. His position as minister of Wellington and representative of that congregation in the assembly; no less than his position as Moderator, was an exceedingly difficult one. The district of Wellington, like that of Stellenbosch, was for the most part a wine-producing area. The most faithful and pious members of his flock were wine-farmers. It was their money that had built both church and parsonage, both hall and school. Unconditionally to condemn the industry which they pursued, would be to wound their tenderest susceptibilities, and to disturb and perhaps destroy the confidence which they had hitherto reposed in their beloved pastor. The decision at which the Synod of 1883 arrived, and in which Mr. Murray acquiesced (though he wished it were more strongly worded), was of the nature of a compromise. It ran as follows—

1. Wine is a good gift of God, to be received with gratitude and to be used to His glory.

2. Scripture nevertheless teaches us that the Christian is at liberty to refrain from the use of such gifts, where such self-denial is exercised in the spirit of holiness, out of love to others, or to protect oneself against temptation to sin.

3. Experience has taught us that for those, who are enslaved to drink, or are in danger of becoming so enslaved, total abstinence is one of the most powerful means of protection; and for this reason such persons should be encouraged to undertake it.

4. For those who think that by their abstinence they can encourage and strengthen the weak it is permissible voluntarily to bind themselves to help such weaker brethren by their example and in the fellowship of love.

5. It must be emphasized that, as there is no salvation without faith in the Lord Jesus, so, too, Biblical Temperance Societies only possess value for eternity in so far as they seek to pave the way for the preaching of the Gospel, and aim at leading their members not merely to a temperate but to a truly godly life.

6. For this purpose it is permissible to enter into a mutual undertaking to abstain, with God’s help, from the use of all intoxicating drinks, and to put forth every endeavour to oppose the abuse of strong drink on the part of others.1

Mr. Murray was unable to agree in all points with the position assumed by Professor Hofmeyr. The latter attempted to prove that the Bible not merely permits but enjoins abstinence from the use of wine, and Mr. Murray believed that this was going beyond the letter of Scripture. But if he expressed a modified dissent from some of the views held by Professor Hofmeyr, he dissociated himself in the most absolute way from the views of those who stood at the other extreme. The protagonist of the anti-abstinence party was the Rev. S. J. du Toit, who for some years had been pastor of the D. R. Church at North Paarl, but-had severed his connexion with the Church and was then engaged in literary labours. Mr. du Toit gave expression to his views in a volume entitled De Vrucht des Wijnstoks (The Fruit of the Vine), which was reviewed in De Kerkbode of 19th March, 1886. The review is unsigned, but internal evidence points pretty clearly to Mr. Murray as the writer. In this paper he controverts the chief arguments advanced against total abstinence—

The author of De Vrucht des Wijnstoks commences with a wrong representation of the matter at issue. “Abstainers condemn not merely the abuse but the use of wine. According to their views no one may either use wine himself or offer it to others.” This representation is wholly false. Only some abstainers assume this position. The majority hold that abstinence is not commanded but recommended (niet bevolen maar aanbevolen) as an act of voluntary self-denial. . . . Further, the author attempts to prove that Scripture commands the use of wine. Moderate drinkers as well as abstainers will demur to this. That the use of wine is sometimes commanded in the Bible is true, nor is it to be denied that the use of wine is regarded as permissible; but the text which our author quotes, "Drink no longer only water, but use a little wine ” is very far from proving his contention. It is in fact a strong proof that there is no general commandment to use wine; for else Paul would have rebuked Timothy for not doing what God had commanded. . . .

The position adopted in De Vrucht des Wijnstoks on the method of combating drunkenness will hardly approve itself even to moderate drinkers. "Make an intemperate man temperate without the renewal of the heart, and you have merely provided Antichrist with a fit instrument.” In other words, we may only labour for the recovery of the drunkard by the preaching of regeneration : there is no hope of getting him sober without conversion. This is a very evil doctrine. Temperance is a social virtue of great value. The drunkard makes havoc of his own life and of that of his children. He is nothing but a burden and a loss to society, because he does not perform his share of work for the benefit of the community. His example is infectious, and he leads others into the way of evil. This alone should make us eager to cure him from his drunken habits. Furthermore, it is not a matter of indifference to God whether an unconverted man remains a drunkard or forsakes his drunkenness. Mr. du Toit thinks it better to leave him in his drunkenness until he is converted. We act very differently with regard to other sins. If my child or my friend is a liar or a thief, I put forth every effort to persuade him to forsake these sins, even before he is converted. Many are engaged in the conflict with drunkenness for the purpose of furthering the Gospel, so that the poor confused drunkard may recover his wits sufficiently to listen to the call of God’s Word.

For some years the question of abstinence continued to be hotly debated in the public Press, and as is usual in such cases the contest evoked more heat than light. Eventually, however, the embers of controversy died down, and both sides began to assume a more tolerant attitude. Christian wine-farmers came to acknowledge that the advocates of temperance were not actuated by any motives of hostility towards themselves personally, but held strong convictions as to the necessity of combating the drink evil by more effective means than words of encouragement and warning. And abstainers learnt to make allowances for the attitude of Christian men who believed that wine-farming was a legitimate industry, and who urged with a measure of truth that, if their vineyards were uprooted, no other means were left by which they could derive subsistence from their scanty acres and unproductive soil. The Synod of the Church, too, made its voice heard with increasing urgency on the side of temperance. In 1915 a strong resolution was adopted, petitioning the Government to introduce legislation with a view to securing stringent restriction, and in some cases absolute prohibition, of the sale of drink to natives and the coloured classes, and demanding an extension of the principle of local option and the introduction of the ballot in the election of members of licensing boards. That this resolution was adopted by the Synod with practical unanimity is a sufficient proof of the distance travelled since the years 1883 and 1886.

The union of the D. R. Churches belonging to the four provinces of South Africa was a question which greatly interested Mr. Murray. It could hardly be otherwise, since the first eleven years of his ministry had been spent in self-denying labours among the farmer populations of the northern territories. He had witnessed the establishment and the growth, in the Orange Free State, the Transvaal and Natal, of autonomous Churches, which were separated from the mother Church of the Cape and from each other by political boundaries only. But when, after the Anglo-Boer war, these boundaries were obliterated, and the several States were reconstituted as provinces of the Union of South Africa, the unification of the Churches became a scheme of practical politics. It was but fitting that the first step in the direction of closer union should be taken on the initiative of Andrew Murray.

At the Synod of 1903—the first which was held after the conclusion of peace—he tabled a motion, in conjunction with his colleague, the Rev. J. R. Albertyn, “that the Synod do appoint a Committee to confer with the Churches of the Orange River Colony, the Transvaal and Natal, in order to ascertain upon what basis a union can be established.” In speaking to this motion Mr. Murray pointed out that two kinds of unification were possible, an organic union, by which all the Churches should become one body and hold all their properties and funds in common, and a federal union, which would secure joint action only, leaving to each Church its autonomy and its material possessions. He declared himself to be in favour of organic union; and though the Synod did not then seem prepared to follow him so far, the motion for the appointment of a committee of conference was carried by a unanimous vote.

The Conference on Union, in the proceedings of which Mr Murray took an active part, was held at Colesberg in the month of October, 1905. It was then resolved to lay before the various Synods proposals for a federal union, under which each Synod should retain its own legislative and administrative authority, while the visible unity of the federated bodies was to be represented by a Council of the Churches {Raad, der Kerken), the decisions of which, however, were not to be binding on any Church until approved by the Synod of that Church. In the establishment of this federal union and the creation of a Council of the Churches the four Synods concurred with not a single dissentient voice; and one of the first acts of the Council thus called into being was to declare that the federal bond was after all a very inadequate expression of the real and fundamental unity of the four bodies, and that they should immediately advance towards the realization of an organic union. Mr. Murray had by this time retired from the ranks of active ministers and could take no further part in the proceedings for union; but the principles which he had expounded in his address to the Synod in 1903 were clearly seen to point towards organic union as their only practical and logical conclusion.

In 1909 the proposals for union, devised by the Council of the Churches, were laid before the various Synods. They comprised five paragraphs. The first summed up the reasons for union ; the second provided that the United Church should bear the historic title “The Dutch Reformed Church of South Africa”; the third dealt with the funds of the Churches which it was proposed to merge into one; the fourth suggested a working solution of the vexed question of the so-called “equality” of native Church-members with white; and the fifth indicated the parliamentary legislation which would be needed in order to give the proposed union legal right and authority.

These weighty proposals were debated in the different assemblies with great earnestness, dignity and enthusiasm. It was abundantly recognized that an epoch had been reached in the history of the D. R. Churches of South Africa. A corporate unity, which formerly was a wholly unrealizable ideal, was now within reach, and the approaching union of the provinces of South Africa acted as a strong incentive to the Churches to keep pace with the political movement. In the Synods of the Transvaal and Natal the proposals were unanimously adopted. In the Free State Synod there was a small minority, and in the Cape Synod a large minority against the scheme, the former declaring that "the time had not yet come for the union of the D. R. Churches of South Africa,” and the latter desiring that “the matter be referred back to the Council of the Churches for further enquiry into the questions of the Church’s name and the right of coloured members.”

*The proposals having passed all four Synods, the way was open to approach Parliament for the necessary legislation. In the session of 1911 an “enabling Bill ” was placed upon the statute-book as Act No. 23 of 1911. It empowered the Synods of the four Churches to enter into an organic union after a certain procedure had been iollowed and certain conditions had been observed. These conditions were by no means easy. They provided, it ter alia, that at least three-fourths of the members of each and every Kerkeraad (Consistory) belonging to either of the four Churches should record their votes for the proposed amalgamation. There were at that time some 250 established congregations in the four provinces, and each Kerkeraad would consist on an average of not less than ten members. At least two thousand five hundred churchwardens, accordingly, many of whom knew very little about the history of the union movement and anticipated small advantage from it, would be called upon to vote in the matter. It was to be expected that if but the smallest doubt arose in their minds—and such doubts were more easily kindled than allayed—they would cast their vote for the retention of the status quo.

These anticipations were unhappily realized. The decisions of the consistories were taken during the first half of 1912. The result was surprising. In the Cape Church, where the Synodical voting had shown only a narrow majority for union, the consistories accorded the measure considerable support, although that support fell far short of the requisite three-fourths majority. In the Free State Church, on the other hand, whose Synod numbered but a few opponents of union, the consistories vetoed the proposals by a large majority. Similarly in the Transvaal the consistories refused to follow the lead of their Synod, which had unanimously declared for union, and recorded an equally decided adverse vote.

Thus were shattered the expectations of attaining to corporate unity in the lifetime of the present generation. One disappointed member of the D. R. Church wrote to the Kerkbode: “I still cherish the feeble hope that union will some day be consummated, and that our revered father Andrew Murray, who fifty years ago witnessed the disruption of our beloved Church,1 may yet enjoy the privilege of seeing the Church united before his death.” This pious hope was likewise doomed to disappointment, and Andrew Murray passed away without beholding what he had so ardently longed for—the re-union of Churches one in faith and doctrine, one in government and discipline, and one in speech and nationality.

The high regard in which Mr. Murray was held by the Church which he served was signally manifested on the occasion of his ministerial jubilee. The 9th of May, 1898, when Mr. Murray celebrated his seventieth birthday and the fiftieth anniversary of his ordination, fell upon a Sunday. The weather, unfortunately, was unpropitious, and rain fell in torrents, so that the diets of worship were but poorly attended by the country congregation, who are conveyed to church by the pony trap and the Cape cart. The sermon was preached by Professor Hofmeyr, who expressed the hope that the jubilee celebrations of their pastor might form the commencement of a new epoch for the members of the Wellington congregation. On the following day, though the weather continued inclement, a large number of ministers assembled to do honour to Mr. and Mrs. Murray, and, among other festivities, an address was presented, accompanied by a gift of study furniture. The address ran as follows—

Wellington, 9th May, 1898.

Right Reverend Sir, Highly-Honoured Brother,—

This day, which for you is so rich in memories of God's love and faithfulness, constrains us also to assure you, in the name of your fellow-ministers in the whole of our Church in South Africa, of our sympathetic association with you in your joy and gratitude. While, as you look back upon a life of rich and blessed experiences, you readily appropriate the words of the psalmist, “I will sing of the mercies of the Lord for ever,” we, too, desire gratefully to acknowledge God’s mercies towards you.

We may not, on this festive occasion, forget what the Lord has bestowed upon His Church in you during the half-century that has elapsed since your ordination, not only for the congregations of Bloemfontein, Worcester, Cape Town and Wellington, which have successively enjoyed the privilege of your faithful and blessed ministry, but for the Church in general, without as well as within this Colony.

The visits which during the first years of your Gospel ministrations you paid to those of our co-religionists who had emigrated northwards, your special Gospel services of later years in almost all the congregations of our Church, in the Colony and beyond, your labours even in foreign lands, especially in England, Scotland, Holland and America, in the way of sermons and convention addresses—all bear witness to the extent of your toil in the great vineyard of the Lord. And then we have not even mentioned the still wider circle, in which you have promoted the interests of the Divine Kingdom and served your great Master, by means of your writings.

We call to mind, likewise, the services you rendered to our Church in days of struggle and difficulty, when you pleaded her interests with the utmost ability not merely in ecclesiastical assemblies, but before the tribunals of the land, and even before Her Majesty’s Privy Council in England. We remember also your able guidance as moderator of the highest Assembly of our Church at six of her Synods; your zealous labours as chairman or member of many different committees in connexion with Church institutions ; and all that you have been enabled, by the Divine blessing, to do by way of establishing institutions where our young men can be trained as missionaries and our young maidens as teachers, as well as for the cause of education generally.

With you and for you we bless the Lord, who has bestowed on you wisdom and strength for all these undertakings, and who has crowned your many-sided labours with such abundant blessing. To Him be ascribed all the honour! . . . We pray that the Lord may long spare you to continue these labours; that He would grant you health and strength for your advancing years; and that at the eventide of your life it may be light.

The proceedings of the third day may be briefly described in words drawn from the Huguenot Seminary Annual:— "All the teachers of the district were invited to meet Mr. and Mrs. Murray at tea on Tuesday, and they with a few friends sat down to the number of one hundred. There was a wonderful charm in the spontaneity of the tribute laid at Mr. Murray’s feet. More than one said, ‘ I am what I am because of Mr. Murray’s interest in me.’ The gathering of the scholars, over a thousand strong, marked a gala day. They marched in procession, with banners flying, to the Dutch Church. The young people had embowered an open carriage with flowers, and in this Mr. and Mrs. Murray sat at the Parsonage gate, watching the procession, each section giving them the Chatauqua salute as they passed. When he entered the church, all stood, and there was a wonderful fluttering of handkerchiefs in greeting from the different schools. It was a beautiful gathering up of Mr. Murray’s loving interest in the young people.”

During the birthday week more than two hundred telegrams of congratulation were received from all parts of the country —from the Governor, the Prime Minister, the Colonial Secretary, the Commissioner for Agriculture, and other prominent public men, from ministers and missionaries, from teachers and farmers, from old and young, who desired to give expression to their feelings of esteem and gratitude towards one who had exercised an influence so wide and so beneficent.

In the response which Mr. Murray made to the congratulatory address, he uttered the feelings which filled his mind on receiving these marks of joy and devotion. Two thoughts, he said, held possession of his heart—the one was gratitude to God and to his friends for all their love, and the other was the desire to speak a word to the glory of God. After the expression of heartfelt thanks to the brethren, both present and absent, who had conspired to honour him, he said that he wished to impress upon his fellow-ministers the truth that God has a work for every one and desires to use each individual. God’s schemes for us are much greater than we have any conception of. This had been his experience. At Bloemfontein, his first love, where he had laboured with all his soul and strength, the Lord so ordained it that when he had overstrained himself, he was deputed to England by a committee in the Free State, and thus secured several months of needful rest. At Worcester his arrival coincided with a powerful manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s working in the congregation, and he shared in the blessings of that revival. There, too, he composed for the edification of believers his book, Blijf in Jezus (Abide in Jesus). The years of his ministry in Cape Town were a time of stress and strain, during which God kindled in him the desire to write and preach against the prevailing unbelief. At Wellington the way was opened for founding the existing educational institutions; while the perusal of accounts of Mr. Moody's labours encouraged him to hold special services, for which purpose the Wellington congregation generously set him free for several weeks year after year. During the years of his ministry God had given him an insight into the needs and weaknesses of the Church, an insight also, on that very account, into his own weaknesses. He asked earnestly for the intercession of God’s people, that it might please the Lord to teach him what he must yet speak and write, and what he dare confidently ask and expect from God.


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