Andrew Murray (1828-1917) was a Dutch Reformed pastor who ministered in South Africa for over sixty years. He is best remembered as the author of numerous devotional classics, many of which are still read today. His ministry was characterized not only by ceaseless activity for the Lord but also by marked Christlikeness. His winsome, Christlike spirit in dealing with friends and foes alike was a key to his tremendous spiritual fruitfulness.
When Murray was forty-three years old he was called to pastor the Dutch Reformed Church of Wellington, about forty-five miles northeast of Cape Town. While Murray’s main emphases were on leading people to the Savior and helping Christians grow deeper in their faith, he was also a teetotaler who actively promoted temperance. The Wellington church had a number of wine farmers in it.
As the congregation was unacquainted with temperance principles, Murray introduced them by stating: “When a farmer trains a young horse it will often shy at a stone or something else. The wise farmer will quietly lead the horse to the unfamiliar object and let him look at it and smell it till all fear passes, and it will not shy any more. So I will not force temperance upon you, but we will speak and preach about it till you are familiar with it and approve of it.”
Not long after his arrival in Wellington, Murray began a movement to have some of the many “public houses” or “canteens” (bars, taverns) in town closed. “Mr. Murray,” a provoked wine farmer asserted, “the congregation will be torn asunder by your temperance sentiments.”
“Never,” Murray replied. “We will, if necessary, take the scissors of love and cut it in two, having one section for temperance and the other not, but we will live together in love.”
Murray’s temperance efforts were so successful that for many years there came to be only four saloons in Wellington. By contrast, during the same period there were forty taverns in the neighboring village.
Not surprisingly, Murray encountered some strong opposition. One of his daughters recollected of their early years in Wellington: “When father came to Wellington there were seven canteens in Church Street alone, but he soon got four of them closed, and also in other streets he got the canteens closed. These people were very angry with him, and sought to burn down the parsonage. We had to be on the watch constantly, for rags soaked in paraffin were thrown in at the window near the lace curtains, so as to cause them to burn. God, in His mercy, graciously protected us, but we exercised great care and watchfulness at this time.”
When Wellington’s jubilee was to be celebrated in 1890, there was a difference of opinion over how the church, which was central to the community, should mark the special occasion. Murray and a number of others in his congregation desired to do so by promoting a generous special offering in support of a missionary cause. But another party within the congregation wished to have a church tower built with the special funds.
Everyone was greatly surprised when a pledge list for the church tower was circulated, as it was headed by a generous donation from Murray. When one of his earnest Christian friends protested, Murray responded, “Let us draw them into the Church by love.” That proved to be the case. The tower came to be spoken of as “the tower of love,” and many of Murray’s former opponents became his lasting friends.
Murray went on to serve as Wellington’s minister for thirty-four years until his retirement from active pastoral ministry at the age of seventy-seven. He then continued to live in the town till the end of his life eleven years later.
Murray exemplifies the type of spirit Christians are encouraged to manifest in Scripture passages such as Ephesians 4:2-3: “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”
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I am currently writing a biography on Andrew Murray’s remarkable life and ministry. While the book’s completion and publication dates are not yet known, I’ll seek to update you periodically on the work’s progress. And I’ll share other highlights occasionally from the example of this commendable, Christlike servant.
Copyright 2014 by Vance E. Christie