Christian parents rightly seek to share the Gospel (Good News) of salvation with their children and to lead them, at an early age if possible, to Jesus Christ as their personal Savior from sin. By God’s grace, some children do come to saving faith in Jesus early in life. But parents eager for their children’s salvation need to guard against assuming their kids have been saved simply because they’ve heard the Gospel and made some sort of an elementary profession such as “I asked Jesus into my heart” or “I believe in Jesus.”

Andrew Murray as a young man

Instead parents need to listen carefully for indications that their children have a clear understanding of the Gospel and an abiding trust in Christ and His death for them on the cross as their only means of salvation. Parents should also look for ongoing spiritual interest and fruit, which inevitably accompanies genuine salvation, in the lives of their children.

Andrew Murray, who eventually became arguably the greatest Christian preacher and devotional writer ever to come from South Africa, serves as an example of these truths concerning a young person’s salvation. Murray was raised by devout parents in a conservative Christian home and church until he was ten years of age (see my Jan. 29, 2015 Perspective on Murray’s upbringing entitled, “A Godly Parentage Is a Priceless Boon”). Throughout his growing up years he showed some sensitivity to spiritual matters. He had numerous opportunities to come to saving faith in Christ. But he did not do so until he was a theology student preparing for the Christian ministry. And until he did so, his parents never assumed his salvation but kept fervently praying for it.

Andrew Murray, Sr.

Andrew’s father, Andrew Murray, Sr., pastored the Dutch Reformed Church in Graaff-Reinet, South Africa, for over forty years. Opportunities for secondary and university education were severely limited in South Africa in the first half of the nineteenth century. So Murray, Sr., and his wife Maria made the painful decision in 1838 to send their two oldest sons, John and his younger brother Andrew, at the tender ages of twelve and ten, to live with an uncle, Rev. John Murray, in Aberdeen, Scotland. There the boys could receive a sound secondary and university education.

The year Andrew and John arrived in Scotland a dramatic spiritual awakening began sweeping across the country. In the spring and fall of 1840 William Chalmers Burns, the primary human agent used of God in igniting that bona fide revival, visited and ministered in Aberdeen for several weeks. He preached to densely crowded audiences in three separate churches each Sunday. Every weekday he led prayer meetings in the morning and afternoon, then gave a public address in the evening. Untold hundreds or even thousands of people came under pressing conviction of their sin, cried out to God for mercy and were saved at that time.

William Chalmers Burns, later as a missionary to China

Burns was a frequent guest in Rev. John Murray’s home. Andrew and John had the opportunity to converse with the evangelist about spiritual matters and to witness first-hand many of the stirring spiritual events then unfolding in Aberdeen. After leaving Aberdeen, Burns wrote Andrew and John, urging them not to delay in turning to Christ as their Savior. But despite all those advantages, neither Andrew nor John was converted under Burns’ ministry.

The Murray brothers excelled in their studies. They were admitted to Marischal College, Aberdeen, Andrew with an academic scholarship. While heartily commending them for their academic success, their father earnestly wrote to them about the greater importance of their Christian conversion: “I am well aware, my dear boys, that neither you nor I can ever change the heart. But let me entreat you both, with all the intense affection of a Christian clergyman and a loving father, to pray daily that God may in mercy be pleased to do so by His Holy Spirit. Many distinguished students have been taken away by death in the midst of their literary and scientific pursuits. And although I trust God will spare you long to be useful in the world, yet should He take one or another of you away in youth, the consolation of the bleeding hearts of parents would not be that you had excelled in human acquirements, however important in themselves, but that there was reason to believe that you died in the Lord.” 

Nine months later, on August 1, 1844, he wrote similarly: “Every parent wishes to see his family ‘getting on,’ as it is termed, but what unspeakable joy for the heart of a Christian parent to hear good ground for believing that his children shall have an eternal inheritance in Heaven! Oh!, when may I through the free grace of God have this soul’s joy with respect to you both? Do not think I am needlessly anxious. Every letter I write to you may be the last you may receive from me. One of our nearest neighbors spoke to me in tolerable health on Monday and died on Tuesday. This is a digression, but with such warnings we ought to live and act as dying creatures.”

Before that letter reached Aberdeen, Andrew had written to inform his father that he had decided to devote his life to pastoral ministry. After receiving that intelligence, the father immediately responded: “I have now to congratulate you on your choice of a profession, and rejoice that the Lord has been pleased to incline your heart the way He has done. I trust, however, my dear boy, that you have given your heart to Jesus Christ, to be His now and His forever, to follow Him through good and through bad report.”

Andrew and John graduated from Marischal College, the latter as the salutatorian of their class, the following spring. By then John had also determined to prepare for the Christian ministry, so he and Andrew decided to pursue their theological education at the Academy of Utrecht in Holland. There they joined a small group of consecrated students who had as their stated purpose “to promote the study of the subjects required for the ministerial calling in the spirit of the revival” that had visited Holland some twenty years earlier.

Sometime during his first autumn at Utrecht, Andrew Murray experienced a personal spiritual transformation that he ever afterwards called his conversion. In a letter dated November 14, 1845, he informed his parents of his spiritual rebirth: “My Dear Parents – It was with very great pleasure that I today received your letter containing the announcement of the birth of another brother. And equal, I am sure, will be your delight when I tell you that I can communicate to you far gladder tidings, over which angels have rejoiced, that your son has been born again. …

“For the last two or three years there has been a process going on, a continual interchange of seasons of seriousness and then forgetfulness, and then again of seriousness soon after. But after I came to Holland I think I was led to pray in earnest; more I cannot tell, for I know it not. ‘Whereas I was blind, now I see’ [John 9:25]. I was long troubled with the idea that I must have some deep sight of my sins before I could be converted. And though I cannot yet say that I have had anything of that deep special sight into the guiltiness of sin which many people appear to have, yet I trust, and at present I feel as if I could say, I am confident that as a sinner I have been led to cast myself on Christ. What can I say now, my dear Parents, but call on you to praise the Lord with me? At present I am in a peaceful state. I cannot say that I have had any seasons of special joy, but I think that I enjoy a true confidence in God.”

May many Christian parents today similarly have the blessing of wisely urging and fervently praying their children to Christ, even when a considerable number of years are involved in that process.

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Andrew Murray by Vance Christie

I have written a comprehensive biography on Murray entitled Andrew Murray, Christ’s Anointed Minister to South Africa. Much spiritual encouragement and instruction can be gained through the consideration of his outstanding life of service for Christ Jesus.

Copyright 2019 by Vance E. Christie

Andrew Murray

Andrew Murray

The mighty prayer meeting revival movement that swept across the United States in 1857-1858, next ignited powerful revivals in Ireland and Wales in 1859, then brought widespread spiritual awakening to South Africa in 1860-1861. After the revival’s dramatic beginning in Montagu, South Africa (see my July 25, 2015, Perspective), it next spread to Worcester, where Rev. Andrew Murray, Jr., had recently been called as pastor.

The awakening there actually began on the farm of David Naude in the rural Breede River ward of the Worcester parish. Three individuals— Naude’s son Jan, Jan’s cousin Miss Van Blerk and an old native farmhand named Saul Pieterse—had been faithfully meeting weekly for several months to pray for revival. Miss Van Blerk taught the servants on the farm and was particularly distressed over their spiritually needy condition. She became so burdened for them that she prayed almost continuously for a week. Then one evening shortly thereafter, God’s Spirit moved suddenly and mightily on a meeting she was holding for them. Within a week nearly everyone on the farm was converted.

As news of these developments quickly spread, people from neighboring farms—“young and old, parents and children, white and colored”—promptly began streaming to the previously-neglected prayer meeting. Members from other parts of the parish and even from other congregations arrived at the Naude farm in carts and wagons. For three months the Naudes needed to suspend their farming activities to assist the many people coming to seek salvation.

Historic Dutch Reformed Church in Worcester, South Africa

Historic Dutch Reformed Church in Worcester, South Africa

Not long after the initial awakening at the Naude farm, the revival spread to Worcester itself. God’s Spirit so moved on a Sunday evening youth meeting that all sixty young people in attendance suddenly started praying simultaneously. The sense of God’s presence was so powerful that some of the youth felt compelled to kneel down to pray.

J. C. de Vries, a young man who witnessed the Worcester revival, later related: “After that the prayer meetings were held every evening. At the commencement there was generally great silence, but after the second or third prayer the whole hall was moved as before, and every one fell to praying. Sometimes the gathering continued till three in the morning. And even then many wished to remain longer, or returning homewards, went singing through the streets. The little hall was soon quite too small, and we were compelled to move to the school building, which also was presently full to overflowing, as scores and hundreds of country folk streamed into the village.”

On the first Saturday evening in the larger meetinghouse, Murray led the prayer meeting. After reading a passage of Scripture and making a few observations on it, he prayed. When he invited others to pray, everyone again began praying aloud all at the same time. Murray thought such praying disorderly, so descended from the platform and moved among the people, trying to quiet them.

That evening a stranger had been standing at the door from the beginning of the meeting. That unknown individual quietly approached Murray, gently touched him and said: “I think you are the minister of the congregation. Be careful what you do, for it is the Spirit of God that is at work here. I have just come from America, and this is precisely what I witnessed there.”

Throughout the remainder of that year and continuing into 1861 revival continued to spread across South Africa. In all, nearly three dozen parishes experienced dramatic spiritual awakening. The church leaders at Wellington reported that their parish had made greater moral and spiritual progress in recent weeks than throughout its entire previous history of nearly two decades. The Stellenbosch leaders enthused of revived spiritual conditions in their community, “The whole of society has been changed, yes, turned literally upside down!”

God is still able to work in these dramatic ways today. Are we willing to diligently seek such transformative blessings from Him in fervent prayer?

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Andrew Murray by Vance ChristieA full account of South Africa’s 1860 revival is recorded in chapters 11 and 12 of my forthcoming biography, Andrew Murray: Christ’s Anointed Minister to South Africa. That volume is to be released in the U.S. this August.

Copyright 2015 by Vance E. Christie

After the Prayer Meeting Revival swept across the United States in 1857-1858 (see my July 6, 2015, Perspective), it was carried by God’s Spirit across the Atlantic to Britain. There powerful, prayer-based revival ignited in both Ireland and Wales in 1859.

Historic Dutch Reformed Church in Montagu, South Africa

Historic Dutch Reformed Church in Montagu, South Africa

Hearing of these developments, churches of various denominations in South Africa began earnestly praying that God would be pleased to bring revival to their country as well. Dramatic spiritual awakening first came to the village of Montagu, located about 115 miles east of Cape Town, in May, 1860.

At the time Montagu did not have a resident minister and prayer meetings had become rare. But suddenly a spirit of prayer and expectation started to grip Montagu. So many people began streaming to prayer meetings that former locations for those gatherings were unable to accommodate all who wished to participate. Separate prayer meetings were held daily for men, women, boys and girls; prayer meetings multiplied and convened up to three times daily.

Servaas Hofmeyr

Servaas Hofmeyr

Rev. Servaas Hofmeyr had been called as Montagu’s pastor but did not arrive and begin his ministry there until the end of September. He later reported: “Extraordinary scenes were witnessed in those days. Anxious cries were uttered, heavy with fear. Heart-rendering testimonies of conversion were heard. Visions were seen and troubled dreams dreamt. Here in corporate prayer, elsewhere in quiet dwellings, even behind bushes and rocks, on mountains and in ravines, men, women, grayheads, children, gentlemen, servants – all kneeling on the same ground crying for mercy. And none of this 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.”

Nicolaas Hofmeyr

Nicolaas Hofmeyr

Nicolaas Hofmeyr, a professor at the Stellenbosch Theological Seminary, conducted his brother’s installation service at Montagu. Professor Hofmeyr testified of the revival there: “In Montagu, especially, where I had ample opportunity to speak to many of those who had been awakened, I was firmly convinced that a powerful work had been carried out by the Spirit of God. When I was there, the feeling of anguish and distress had generally subsided. The soul had been able to appropriate to itself the offered pardon in the blood of Christ. Love had banished fear. But some had still to carry on a hard conflict caused either by their wavering faith or by their outbursts of native depravity.

“For two or three weeks, when the awakening was in full strength, cases of heartfelt conversion occurred daily. A pious man told me that during that time the awakened were so much increased in number, and felt so anxious for spiritual advice, that he could scarcely allow himself bodily rest.

“Scarcely a house in the village is to be found where the awakening of God’s Spirit has not been felt by one or more individuals. The religious indifference for which this place has been known has given way to a tone of earnestness, which is diffused throughout society. The aspect of this place is entirely changed. Even those who do not approve of the revival have told me that the general improvement in the conduct of the inhabitants, within a few months, has been quite marvelous.”

The revival was not long in spreading to Worcester, nearly fifty miles northwest of Montagu, where Rev. Andrew Murray, Jr., had recently been called as pastor. (To be continued …)

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A full account of South Africa’s 1860 revival is recorded in chapters 11 and 12 of my forthcoming biography, Andrew Murray: Christ’s Anointed Minister to South Africa. That volume is to be released in the U.S. next month.

Copyright 2015 by Vance E. Christie