Hundreds of consecrated Christian missionaries went out from Scotland in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Most of them faithfully, capably served Christ Jesus in relative obscurity. Some of them gained a degree of eminence for their sacrificial, fruitful service.
Scotland’s preeminent missionary was David Livingstone (1813-1873). In addition to his consecrated missionary service, he explored a vast region of southcentral Africa which had been previously unknown to Europeans. He opened the way for Christianity (of first importance) and commerce (of secondary importance) to be introduced throughout that immense area. He also played a primary role in exposing the evils of and helping bring an end to the slave trade in that part of Africa.
I’m currently writing a comprehensive biography of Livingstone’s life and ministry. So when my wife Leeta and I recently visited Scotland, one of the places I was most looking forward to visiting was the David Livingstone Centre and Birthplace Museum in Blantyre, South Lanarkshire (a fourteen-mile drive from Glasgow). The museum has extensive displays and items relating to Livingstone’s upbringing and career. But unfortunately I had somehow overlooked the fact that the museum is currently closed for major renovations.
We ended up investing the day which we had intended to spend at that museum, instead, in seeing some of the sights in Glasgow. While doing so we unexpectedly came across two significant indications of the high esteem in which Livingstone came to be held in Scotland. The first instance of this was at Glasgow’s Saint Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art. There the one modest display we found concerning “Missions and Missionaries” prominently featured David Livingstone.
Though I’m not at all a proponent of religious relics, it was a treat for me to see a copy of the Bible Livingstone used during his first decade of service in Africa, as well as the trademark consular cap with gold band which he characteristically wore throughout his exploring years.
Looking out a second- or third-story window of Saint Mungo Museum, we took pictures of the nearby Glasgow Cathedral, which is also called the High Kirk of Glasgow.
On the paved plaza leading to the front of the cathedral stands a magnificent monument with an impressive statue of David Livingstone atop it.
Three sides of the monument bear large metalwork plates depicting (1) Livingstone teaching the Africans, (2) Livingstone taking astrological observations to use in determining latitude and longitude, and (3) an Arab slave trader attacking an African mother and her child with a whip. [pixs of metalwork plates on DL monument]
I was delighted but not surprised to discover these two outstanding tributes to Scotland’s premier missionary in Glasgow. Livingstone grew up near Glasgow then received his initial theological and medical training in that city. He later qualified as a medical doctor, receiving the license of the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons in Glasgow. He went on to gain tremendous acclaim in all of Britain, from Christians and non-Christians alike, for his career of missionary service, his wide-ranging explorations and geographical discoveries throughout southcentral Africa, and his steadfast determination to help end the African slave trade. All that was carried out with marked self-sacrifice, perseverance, courage and humility. He was not only admired but also lionized. Little wonder then that all of Scotland came to proudly esteem him as one of its most-honored sons.
Livingstone would have considered such honoring and lionizing of himself by others as tosh (to use a good British term). Livingstone’s goal in life was not self-promotion but faithful, humble service of his Savior Jesus, by helping to advance Christ’s spiritual kingdom and by bringing God’s love and blessings to others.
Copyright 2019 by Vance E. Christie