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In 2010 Christians in South Africa are celebrating the 150 anniversary of a most remarkable Revival which swept across the Cape in 1860.
A Spiritual Wilderness
The Cape Colony prior to the 1860 Revival was a spiritual wilderness. The Dutch East India Company controlled the appointment of pastors and establishment of congregations. Yet, in the first 150 years of Dutch rule in the Cape only five congregations had been established, all within 130km radius of Cape Town. Most of the farmers and Trekboers had no access to pastoral guidance, or opportunities for religious services. Even more seriously, although few of the people in the colony spoke Dutch anymore, the authorities deemed their vernacular, Afrikaans, to be unworthy for church services, prayers, or even for personal devotions. This led to very stilted services where the average member of the congregation struggled to understand the high Dutch of the pulpit and found it hard to express themselves in prayer through the Dutch language. The only Bible available was Dutch, which most of the population had trouble reading. Without the ability to pray from the heart, most resorted to following fixed formulas of well worn expressions.
Under these circumstances it should not be surprising that spiritual paralysis set in. Nicolaas Hofmeyr despaired at the unresponsiveness of his congregation in Calvinia. During his 6 year ministry there he could not persuade a single person to attend the prayer meeting. Not even once! In addition to the resistance to prayer he also battled an intense opposition to mission work.
Gottlieb Van Der Lingen was born of Dutch missionary parents. His father was a chaplain to the Cape Corps on the Eastern frontier. Van Der Lingen studied for the ministry in Utrecht in Holland. From his first sermon in the Groote Kerk in Cape Town he warned against the rising tide of liberalism and called the people back to the Bible. With the Theological Seminaries in Holland turning out unregenerate preachers, spiritual deadness was infecting the churches in the Cape. Ds. van der Lingen energetically promoted Christian schools, but was frustrated that not one church responded to his offer to help establish Christian education in their area!
The Language Barrier
The British first came to the Cape in 1795. As part of their Anglicisation policy all school subjects had to be taught through the medium of English. Most of the Cape Dutch could no longer speak Dutch, nor could they comfortably speak English. There were no Afrikaans schools available and the churches refused to allow the use of the Afrikaans language in either church services or prayer meetings.
However, the British Anglicisation policy had the unintended result of sparking the most incredible Spiritual Revival which resolved all of these problems and led to the establishment of Afrikaans as a national language.
With the British excluding the Dutch language from the schools and from government, the Dutch congregations were pointed to Scotland to obtain their ministers. The arrival of 11 Reformed pastors from Scotland, led by Andrew Murray senior, heralded a new era. Andrew Murray's father was appointed to the frontier parish of Graaff Reinet and he married Maria Stegmann of Cape Town on the way to his frontier congregation. Andrew Murray junior was born in Graaff Reinet on 9 May 1828. What the British government had failed to anticipate was that the Scottish Presbyterians would learn the Dutch and Afrikaans languages and, instead of converting the Cape Dutch to English, were used of God to revitalize their faith and culture in an unprecedented way.
Praying for Revival
Without fail, every Friday evening for 36 years, Andrew Murray's father prayed for Revival. When Andrew was 10 years old he was sent to Scotland to be educated. During his 7 year stay with his uncle, Rev. John Murray and the family in Aberdeen, they were brought into contact with some of the most powerful Reformed preachers of the day, including Dr. Chalmers and William Burns. After Andrew and his elder brother, John, graduated with M.A. Degrees in 1845, they headed for Utrecht for further theological studies and to master the Dutch language.
Andrew Murray senior's brother-in-law, Georg Stegmann, was mightily used of the Lord in building up the St. Stephens congregation in Cape Town. Many coloured people were brought to Christ and a dynamic evangelistic work sprang up.
To the Voortrekkers
When Andrew Murray returned from his studies in Scotland and Holland he was still only 20 years old and church law required a pastor in the Cape to be at least 22 years old. The governor, Sir Harry Smith, circumvented this rule by allocating Andrew to evangelise the Voortrekkers between the Orange and Vaal Rivers. The Orange River Sovereignty had been annexed by Britain in 1848 and the approximately 12,000 Voortrekkers on scattered farms between the Orange and Vaal had been without a pastor since leaving the Cape.
As the first pastor appointed to the Voortrekkers, Andrew Murray's headquarter was in the small village of Bloemfontein. In order to minister to his vast congregation Andrew needed to constantly travel to conduct communion and preaching services throughout the sovereignty. He also conducted 4 missionary tours amongst the Voortrekkers in the Transvaal. Dealing with tough pioneering farmers Andrew quickly had to learn to keep his sermons simple, logical and practical. Being the only pastor for the Voortrekkers, Andrew was forced to adopt a leadership role. His speedy intervention prevented bloodshed as he helped negotiate the treaty between the Voortrekker leader, Andreas Pretorius, and the British government which led to the signing of the Sand River Convention of 1852. This led to the recognition of the independence of the Orange Free State.
Andrew later looked back on his 11 years of ministry amongst the Voortrekkers as invaluable training for his life long ministry. Ministering on the frontier strengthened Andrew's character, made him decisive in action and powerful in preaching.
He also became acutely aware of the desperate spiritual state of most in South Africa. He wrote: “I begin to fear that the state of the great majority of members is much sadder than I at first realized … nothing but God's mighty Spirit is able to conquer the deep enmity of the unconverted heart”.
He struggled to establish Christian schools in the Orange Free State, attempting to recruit teachers from Holland, but he faced resistance and inertia on all sides. Despairing of obtaining suitable pastors from Holland, the Dutch Reformed Church appointed Rev. John Murray to establish a theological seminary in Stellenbosch.
When John expressed his reticence over this nomination his father, Andrew Murray senior, challenged him: “Are you willing to place your life on the line for this great task?” John responded with a heartfelt “Yes!” He accepted the nomination and sought the assistance of Nicolaas Hofmeyr and Johan Neethling to launch the Stellenbosch Kweekschool.
A Call to Prayer
In August 1859 three pastors of the Dutch Reformed Church published a challenge for ministers to preach a series of sermons on the character of God, the role of the Holy Spirit and the need for both corporate and private prayer for the outpouring of God's Holy Spirit. “An Awakening can occur through the abundant outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and that the gift of the Holy Spirit is promised in answer to prayer is a truth that is clearly taught in Scripture … We earnestly beseech you to faithfully and fervently pray one hour every week - with others, or alone that God by His Grace may visit our land and give us the blessing of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.” An 85 page book entitled “The Power of Prayer” was widely circulated throughout 1859. Several articles on Prayer and Revival were published in De Kerkbode and De Wekker.
Yet, while many of the pastors were enthusiastic about prayer and Revival the average person in the pew remained disinterested and unresponsive.
A number of small prayer meetings began. The one in Montagu never grew beyond three regular attendees prior to May 1860. The weekly prayer meeting in Worcester seldom had more than three or four participants. However, one dedicated intercessor wore a footpath to the top of a hill overlooking the town praying for Revival.
Andrew Murray was called to lead the congregation in Worcester at the same time that a conference of churches was to meet to discuss the subject of Revival. Carts, wagons and horses brought in 374 visitors representing 20 congregations. This included 8 ministers from the Andrew Murray family. With great excitement the conference began 18 April, laying out the Scriptural basis for Revival.
A Decisive Moment
According to C.Rabie, a teenager who attended the conference and would later become a DRC minister, the Revival began at the conference itself. He wrote: “Ds. Murray (Jnr.)'s participation during the first part of the conference was limited to one prayer, but it was a prayer so full of power and emotion that people came under deep conviction of sin. You can safely say that the Revival dates from that moment.”
Pentecost at Worcester
Andrew Murray commenced his ministry at Worcester on Pentecost Sunday 27 May with a sermon on “The Ministration of the Spirit”. C. Rabie wrote: “It was as though one of the prophets of old had risen from the dead. The subjects were conversion and faith … deadly earnestness.”
Andrew Murray preached on: “What meanest thou o sleeper? Arise and call upon thy God.” Jonah 1:6; “He that believeth not shall be damned” Mark 16:16; “Friend, how camest thou in hither, not having a wedding garment?” Matthew 22:12. The congregation in Worcester had never heard such straight forward shocking Biblical preaching. The Revival in Worcester came like a firestorm.
One of the pastors who experienced the Revival, Servaas Hofmeyr, wrote: “Before the days of Revival the situation of our congregation was lamentable. Love of the world and sin; no earnestness or heartfelt desire for Salvation; sinning and idleness that was the order of the day for most … when the Lord started to move among us how intense were the prayers for Revival and the cries for mercy! 'I am lost!' cries one here. 'Lord, help me!' cries another. Anxious cries were uttered, heart rendering testimonies of conversion were heard. Visions were seen … Corporate prayer, even behind bushes and rocks, on mountains and in ravines, men, women, greyheads, children, gentlemen, servants all kneeling on the same ground crying for mercy. And none of this was expected by anyone, nor prepared by anyone, nor worked up, or preached by anyone it was all the Spirit of God, and not for a few hours or days, but months long.”
Prayer meetings were overflowing and full of fire and zeal. Early in the morning and late at night people would come singing to God's house. Repentance, renewal and rebirth. Devotion was deepened, vision widened. Cases of heartfelt conversion occurred daily.
Amongst the first to be impacted by the Revival were the coloured farm workers near Worcester. A written account of these farm workers described them as: “debased and shriveled with drink and drunk all day long, sullen wretched creatures…” It was this least expected quarter that the Revival hit most powerfully.
Farm workers fell to the ground and cried out for mercy, so greatly was the presence of God felt. At first Andrew Murray was shocked at the emotionalism and apparent disorder. Andrews' knowledge of Revival had been limited to the Scottish experience where congregations were far more orderly and restrained. As Andrew sought to take control of a prayer meeting where people were experiencing agonies of conviction of sin, a stranger touched Ds. Murray and warned him: “Be careful what you do, for it is the Spirit of God that is at work here”.
The Real and the False
Andrew quoted from George Whitefield, who stated: “If you try to stamp out the wildfire and remove what is false, you will equally and simultaneously remove what is real.”
Nicolaas Hofmeyr wrote: “A Spirit of humility is observable amongst us. We see ourselves in all our loathsomeness as lost and wretched children of Wrath unable of ourselves to do any good thing. … The Spirit of prayer increases and the supplications become more earnest … - this is the work of the Holy Spirit … the sense of sin is increasing. Deep humility is observable and still our souls have been refreshed … God is being sought in secret.”
Montagu & Calvinia
At Montagu, a Scriptural class of coloured farm workers, who were being taught by a young woman, experienced an extraordinary outpouring of the Spirit of God. Calvinia, which had previously resisted every effort by their previous pastor to participate in prayer meetings, suddenly developed an overwhelming burden for prayer.
Answer to Prayer
Conviction of sin came over the congregations with intense spiritual agony, confession of sin and earnest restitution. Andrew Murray senior visited Worcester and rejoiced that what he had prayed for, over 38 years, was now being experienced by his son. “Andrew, my son, I have longed for such times as these which the Lord has let you have.”
Rev. Henry Taylor of the Presbyterian Church in Wellington wrote this report on Andrew Murray's preaching: “His whole being is thrown into the task and he glows with the fervency of Spirit which it seems impossible for human flesh to sustain … audiences bend before the sweeping rain of his words, like willows before the gale. The heart within the hearer is bowed and the intellect is awed.”
As Spiritual hunger increased, Andrew was led to provide more discipleship instruction and guidance for converts including writing: The Children For Christ, Abide in Christ, The Two Covenants, The New Life, The Full Blessing of Pentecost, Holy in Christ, The School of Obedience, The School of Prayer, The Ministry of Intercession, Pray Without Ceasing, Absolute Surrender, Waiting on God and Like Christ. Andrew Murray became one of the world's most respected writers on the deeper Christian life. He wrote over 200 books, booklets and pamphlets, many of which were translated into numerous other languages, some continually in print for over 100 years. Andrew wrote: “A Revival of Holiness is what we need. We need preaching about Christ's claim on us that will lead us to live entirely for Him and His Kingdom.”
Evangelism & Revival
Selwyn Hughes observed: “In evangelism the preacher calls on people to get saved; in Revival people often call on the preacher to ask him how they can get saved.”
The September 1860 edition of De Wekker declared: “The whole of society has been changed, yes, turned literally upside down!” Church buildings needed to be enlarged to cater for the influx of new converts. Side wings were built onto existing churches.
Robert Shand in Tulbagh wrote of: “A deepening of the Spiritual Life within the congregation.” In Ceres the church council wrote of: “Coming to life of dead bones.” In Robertson Ds. Smidt reported that the Revival was: “Undoubtedly the work of the Holy Spirit.”
The Cape Bows to Christ
The Evangelical Alliance issued a nationwide call for all churches in the Cape Colony to set aside a week in January for united prayer. The Cape was literally on its knees.
Revival in Paarl
Ds. Gottlieb van der Lingen preached: “Are you, congregation of Paarl, being awakened by these cries of Revival? Wake up, you who sleep! Arise from the dead and Christ will shine His light on you…! And what if you don't awaken now? Will you then ever be renewed before the terrible Awakening to take place in the hereafter?” It was during that week of prayer in January 1861 that Revival swept through Paarl. There were heart rending pleas for mercy and soul wrenching confessions of sin.
The church building became too small to hold the growing crowds. The growing interest in prayer required numerous new prayer meetings to be established. Members of the Paarl congregation experienced lengthy periods of wrestling through self examination, repentance and surrendering all to God. There were great cries for mercy and ultimately many tears of thankfulness and joy.
Ds. van der Lingen exclaimed: “How many years have I not served God as a servant? But what a great difference serving Him as a servant and serving Him as a son! I only now understand the freedom.”
In May 1862 Ds. van der Lingen suggested that the congregation should assemble for prayer during the ten days between Ascension Day and Pentecost. The adoption of Pentecost services throughout the Dutch Reformed Churches remains one of the significant fruits of the 1860 Revival.
In April 1861 Revival erupted in Graaff Reinet. A prayer meeting that began after a communion service on Sunday evening became so powerfully aware of the presence of God's Holy Spirit that the meeting lasted non-stop until Tuesday midday before the congregation went home!
Reversal of Fortunes
The Dutch Reformed Church at the Cape was changed forever. From the earliest days of the Cape Colony there had always been a desperate shortage of pastors. Now over 50 young men came forward to be trained for the ministry. A Bible based newspaper, Die Volksvriend, was launched January 1862 by Andrew Murray and Servaas Hofmeyr. Resistance to missions evaporated.
Die Vrouwen Zending Bond (Women’s Missionary Union) was established with Emma Murray becoming its first president. The first Cape DRC missionaries Alexander McKidd and Henri Gonin were sent out to the Transvaal.
De Wekker editorialized: “What is the aim of Revival? Not to enjoy God's gift in a selfish way. No! But to impart mission work. Every farm must become a mission station and every congregation a mission organisation” De Wekker declared that we must send our sons and daughters to the mission field.
Andrew Murray turned to Paul Kruger to help the DRC to establish its first mission station in the Soutpansberg Range. When the first missionaries sent out, Alexander and Hessie McKidd, died of fever, this became a testing time for the revived churches. Henry Gonin faithfully served at Paul Kruger's farm near Rustenburg until his death in 1911. Stefanus Hofmeyr worked faithfully for over 10 years among the surrounding tribes seeing many witchdoctors and murderers come to the Lord.
Education & Evangelism
Despite much spiritual warfare and ongoing attacks from liberals in the DRC, Andrew Murray became a renowned author, an international evangelist and the Moderator of the Dutch Reformed Church. He established the Africa Institute which sent out hundreds of missionaries through Africa. Andrew also pioneered women's education in South Africa and established the Huguenot College for training Christian teachers.
Africa for Christ
The missionary vision of the Dutch Reformed Church exploded with mission stations being established in Mashonaland, Matabeleland, Bechuanaland, Nyasaland, Nigeria and Sudan. In 1927 the Missions Committee of the Cape DRC recorded 304 serving missionaries and 72,079 baptised African Christians. DRC missionaries from the Cape had established 1,447 schools with 2,699 teachers and 96,309 pupils.
The language barrier was overcome as Afrikaans became the language of the pulpit and in 1925 Afrikaans was granted equal status with English as an official language of the country. In 1933 the first complete Bible translated into Afrikaans was published.
As Andrew Murray wrote: “Live in the bold and holy confidence that God is able to bless His Church through you … God is really only waiting for prayer in order to give the blessing”
“And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29: 13
Dr. Peter Hammond
P O Box 74